Quick and Dirty: 1 Topic in 3 Figures [Today Language in Party Manifestos]

Most of my research is driven by numbers and stats. Yet, my friends and parents say rightly that they barely can follow my research due to the quantitative focus of my research. For one, because of the jargon coming with such studies, for another because they mostly lack the necessary stat training to follow my research. In an effort to make my research more accessible for my parents, friends and the public in general I will try to nail down most of my research into a “1 Topic in 3 Figures” blog style in the future. I hope that graphs might be more intuitively understandable than all the words and formulas used in academic papers.

So let’s get started. My dear colleague Roman Senninger and I did some quantitative text analysis of party manifestos (=Wahlprogramm) in relation to the elections in Vienna which took place roughly a month ago. The full blog posting can be found on Roman’s webpage in German (sorry for our German. We both rarely use our mother tongue…)!

The three major take-away points are:

  1. Like in most neighbouring countries of Austria, the topic of migration and asylum seekers was a hot topic during the campaign in Vienna. Thus, we looked into how the two major parties (FPÖ=populist right party & SPÖ=social demo party) framed the topics of asylum. As can be seen in the table below, they relied on quite distinct and different frames. As one might expect the SPÖ largely relied on words that suggest support and protection for the interests of refugees. In contrast, the FPÖ overwhelmingly connoted refugees with rejection and refusal.asylum
  2. We looked into the sentiment or tone of each manifesto. We did this by counting the words with a positive or negative connotation in every sentence of the manifestos. We used a lexicon called SentiWS which lists all German words having a positive or negative tone. We suspected that most parties rely on a positive sentiment, since parties can be understood as sitting in the driver seat of political decision making. Thus, they are also the ones to be blamed for policy success and failure. Therefore, parties should not have an interested to frame the status quo negatively. Especially government parties should rely on a positive framing due to their governmental responsibilities (SPÖ & Greens). While opposition parties might attempt to blame the government for some decision and, thus, might be more suspicious to also rely on negative tones. And the bar graph below supports this claim. It reports the amount of positive and negative tone for each party manifesto. The more green the more positive the party toned the sentences in its manifesto, the more orange the more of a negative sentiment can be found in the manifesto. bar_sentiment
  3. A final thing we were interested in is the readability of manifestos. If you ever tried to read a manifesto yourself you might know how difficult it is at times to understand the meaning of it. We expected that most of the time manifestos are full of jargon, complex wording and long sentences. We used the Automated Readability Index (ARI) to estimate the readability of manifestos with higher values standing for more complex texts. Indeed we found that in general manifestos are difficult texts. However, as the scatterplot below reports this is less the case so for the FPÖ and the SPÖ. A scatterplot reports the position of a data point on two variables. The horizontal axis is the sentiment of the manifesto as reported in 2. in this blogpost. The vertical axis is the readability (ARI Index) of each manifesto. We suspect that both parties try to be simple due to their core constituency and the topics their manifestos cover. Interestingly, parties seem to rely more often on positive sentiment the more complex a manifesto is. However, we do not have enough observations to support this claim (but found the same pattern when looking into all Austrian manifestos since 1966 and controlling for a range of factors including the length of the manifestos). scatter_read

The full post can be found here in German. 

PS: Yeah, I know these are 2 graphs and a table. Sorry for that, trying to make sure that this will not happen in the future.

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