Emotions at the 2012 Party Conventions

[Updated: Full convention results at the bottom.]

While inspecting the awesome graphs that Mike Bostock and Matthew Ericson put together to display the words being used in the Democratic and Republican conventions [Update: Make sure to check out the incredible tool for comparing word frequencies. I’m a huge fan of Mike Bostock and wished I knew JavaScript better so my graphs could take full advantage of D3.] , I noticed that they provided links to the transcripts of the speeches in plain text format. Of course I instantly thought, “text to analyze!”

The first night of the convention, there was chatter on Twitter about the Democratic delegates being a more active audience than the Republican delegates–more cheering, more emotions. Looking at the transcripts, I noticed that it listed when the speaker was interrupted by things like, “applause”, “laughter” or “boos”. I extracted just those comments from the text, and then analyzed their frequency per 1,000 words. Note that this includes all the nights of the RNC, but only the first night of the DNC–the Republican data didn’t say when each speaker went, so I couldn’t separate them by day. Also, when more than one thing was listed as happening at the same time, such as “Laughter, Applause”, I gave credit to each individually. Finally, I combined “chuckles” with “laughter”.

So who has the more emotional delegates, based on audience interruptions of the speaker per 1,000 words?

Emotion

Rep

Dem

Applause

16.40

19.04
Cheers

15.52

18.15
Laughter

1.84

1.08
Boos

0.40

1.14
Chanting

0.37

0.19

This provides modest evidence for a more active Democratic crowd. The Democratic crowd averaged 39 reactions per 1,000 words compared to 34 for Republicans. Democrats applauded, cheered and booed more than their Republican counterparts. While Republicans spent more time laughing and chanting, they didn’t do this enough to close the emotion gap on the other measures.

Here’s my script. Since it grabs the data from the Times who update their transcripts, running it at a later point will include more Democratic speeches with different results.

Post convention update:
Here’s the final numbers based on the full transcripts of both conventions:

Emotion

Rep

Dem

Applause

16.35

19.43
Cheers

15.47

18.58
Laughter

1.84

1.27
Boos

0.40

1.28
>Chanting

0.37

0.21

The Republican numbers changed marginally, as I slightly revised the scraping script and the Times posted a new transcripts URL. The Democratic numbers went up slightly, but stayed fairly constant, considering the original data was based on just the first night of the convention and the heavy hitters–Presidents Clinton and Obama–had yet to come.

I also looked at how often each speaker was interrupted by the audience either by cheering or chanting. In the transcript, this is marked either by something like, “(Sustained cheers, applause.)” or “AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Four more years! Four more years!” This would count as two interruptions. (In the above analysis, the “cheers” and “applause” were counted separately, but the results are highly correlated). I trimmed off those who spoke for less than 225 words resulting in 192 speakers. When multiple people were at the podium, the transcript doesn’t make it easy to parse each of the different speakers, so some data points might represent groups of speakers rather than a single person, although I did try and split them where it was obvious. This mostly matters because each person is greeted with applause, and if they are grouped together in the transcript as a single speaker, it looks more exciting than it actually was.

The average speaker at the DNC was interrupted about 18% more often than the average speaker at the Republican convention, with DNC speakers interrupted about every 44 words and RNC speakers interrupted every 51 words. Based on this measure, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer gave the most exciting speech. While Clint Eastwood’s speech was widely panned outside of the convention hall, it received an enthusiastic response in the room. Among the candidates, both Ryan and Obama were the stars, although both lagged behind the performance of President Clinton and his 176 interruptions. While Clinton’s speech was about 18% longer than Obama’s, Clinton’s was interrupted 32% more often.

About Neal Caren

Sociology
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