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Behav Res Methods. 2017 Oct;49(5):1668-1685. doi: 10.3758/s13428-017-0931-5.

Speaking two "Languages" in America: A semantic space analysis of how presidential candidates and their supporters represent abstract political concepts differently.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology and Center for Brain Behavior, and Cognition, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA. pul8@psu.edu.
2
Department of Psychology and Center for Brain Behavior, and Cognition, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA.
3
Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16802, USA.

Abstract

In this article we report a computational semantic analysis of the presidential candidates' speeches in the two major political parties in the USA. In Study One, we modeled the political semantic spaces as a function of party, candidate, and time of election, and findings revealed patterns of differences in the semantic representation of key political concepts and the changing landscapes in which the presidential candidates align or misalign with their parties in terms of the representation and organization of politically central concepts. Our models further showed that the 2016 US presidential nominees had distinct conceptual representations from those of previous election years, and these patterns did not necessarily align with their respective political parties' average representation of the key political concepts. In Study Two, structural equation modeling demonstrated that reported political engagement among voters differentially predicted reported likelihoods of voting for Clinton versus Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Study Three indicated that Republicans and Democrats showed distinct, systematic word association patterns for the same concepts/terms, which could be reliably distinguished using machine learning methods. These studies suggest that given an individual's political beliefs, we can make reliable predictions about how they understand words, and given how an individual understands those same words, we can also predict an individual's political beliefs. Our study provides a bridge between semantic space models and abstract representations of political concepts on the one hand, and the representations of political concepts and citizens' voting behavior on the other.

KEYWORDS:

Computational modeling; Dynamic change; Predictive modeling; Representation of political concepts; Semantic space; Word association

PMID:
28718087
DOI:
10.3758/s13428-017-0931-5
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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