12 Things I Learned While Analyzing the Presidential Debates

The Middle Class Wasn’t Always a Big Deal

It wasn’t until recently that the concept of the “Middle Class” became a debate topic for presidential candidates.

And it doesn’t seem to have much to do with stagnant wages:

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Maybe it has something to do with wealth inequality?

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I don’t know. Maybe? But then what happened in 1992? The recession? OK this one I didn’t learn much. I just thought it was interesting. And isn’t that what’s really important?

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But Taxes Were ALWAYS a Big Deal

How we talk about taxes continues to change. But it seems that we have always talked about them. For the past 58 years they have consistently been in the top two most referenced issues in every series of presidential debates




That Said, Trump Did Set a New Low

The Trump/Clinton debates set a record for the reading level of any presidential debate in history. They beat the previous 3-way tie by a full grade level. Needing less than a FULL 5th grade education to understand the debates.

Obama/McCain Raised The Bar in 2008

Obama v McCain s the most advanced vocabulary we’ve seen in 18 years, and the most complex sentence structure we’ve seen in 30 years. What’s more is that the major issues that I accounted for were referenced more than any debate previously televised debate. Ever.


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And then Obama/Romney Went and Lowered the Bar in 2012

Setting a Record for the least complex sentence structure of any debate ever. Even beating out Trump/Clinton for the record.

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Our Role in the Middle East is No Longer Up For Debate

We are no longer at war, but we are now involved in more parts of the middle east than ever. And it seems that this is no longer a point of debate. Just something that we do.




Israel Is Barely Ever Up for Debate

For all of the commotion in the media about how to handle Israel, there really isn’t much of a debate over it in the presidential arena.




But No One Ever Mentions Palestine

Seriously, no one talks about it. Are they scared if they say it three times, it means they recognize it as a country or something?

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But for Some Reason, We Still Bring Up The Soviet Union

Despite a very obvious and reasonable decline in the number of times candidates talk about the Soviet Union


And We Talk about Russia as much as we used to talk about the Soviet Union

The subject of how to handle Russia is now debated just as hotly as how to handle the Soviet Union during the Cold War!!




If Republicans Want To Repeal ObamaCare, and Reform Healthcare, they’re sure scared to Talk About It.

In the years proceeding Healthcare reform, the subject was hotly debated every single election after 1984. The Democrats offered solution after solution. And then Obamacare was enacted and while the debate is still alive, it’s dwindling. And in 2016 health care was referenced in fewer times than any time since 1988. And even that is within a margin of error.


Parsing Debate Speech is Hard

OK this isn’t about the debate speech per say. More about the graphics and the analysis. A lot of work went into them, and I am the first to admit that they aren’t perfect. The candidates can talk about an issue any number of ways, and I have to guess what those ways might be. So if I missed a term, the subject would be under represented.

In the future I would like to write a script that allows me to parse the language by speaker. This isn’t that difficult, but I wanted to see if everyone enjoyed this one. So if you would like to see breakdowns by candidate/ party or anything else you’re interested in, let me know in the comments and I’ll write a follow up article.

Mined Data: Download


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