Changes in the style and content of Australian election campaign speeches from 1901 to 2016: A computational linguistic analysis

Open access

Abstract

There have been significant social and political changes in Australian society since federation in 1901. The issues that are considered politically salient have also changed significantly. The purpose of this article is to examine changes in the style and content of election campaign speeches over the period 1901-2016. The corpus consists of 88 election campaign speeches delivered by the Prime Minister and Opposition leader for the 45 elections from 1901 to 2016. I use natural language processing to extract from the speeches a number of linguistic variables which serve as independent variables and use the year of delivery as the dependent variable. I then use machine learning to develop a regression model which explains 77 per cent of the variance in the dependent variable. Examination of the salient independent variables shows that there have been significant linguistic changes in the style and content of election speeches over the study period. In particular speeches have become less linguistically complex, less introspective, more focused on work and the home, and contain more visual and social references. I discuss these changes in the context of changes in Australian society over the study period.

Brysbaert, Marc, Amy Beth Warriner and Victor Kuperman. 2014. Concreteness ratings for 40 thousand generally known English word lemmas. Behavior Research Methods 46(3): 904-911.

Carroll, Brian. 2010. Vintage Keating. Rosenberg Publishing: Kenthurst, NSW.

Copland, Douglas. 1934. Australia in the world crisis, 1929-33. London: Cambridge University Press.

Dalvean, Michael. 2015a. Ranking contemporary American poems. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 30(1): 6-19.

Dalvean, Michael. 2015b. The axial age: A linguistic examination of cognitive evolution. Working Paper. School of Politics and International Relations. Canberra: Australian National University. https://www.academia.edu/25063310/The_Axial_Age_A_Linguistic_Examination_of_Cognitive_Evolution. Accessed 12/12/2016.

Kacewicz, Ewa, James W. Pennebaker, Matthew Davis, Moongee Jeon and Arthur C. Graesser. 2014. Pronoun use reflects standings in social hierarchies. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 33(2): 125-143.

Kincaid, J. Peter, Robert P. Fishburne Jr, Richard L. Rogers and Brad S. Chissom. 1975. Derivation of new readability formulas (automated readability index, fog count and flesch reading ease formula) for navy enlisted personnel. No. RBR-8-75. Naval Technical Training Command Millington TN Research Branch.

Lakhal, Sawsen, Éric Frenette, Serge Sévigny and Hager Khechine. 2012. Relationship between choice of a business major type (thing-oriented versus person-oriented) and Big Five personality traits. The International Journal of Management Education 10(2): 88-100.

Newman, Matthew L., James W. Pennebaker, Diane S. Berry and Jane M. Richards. 2003. Lying words: Predicting deception from linguistic styles. Personality and social psychology bulletin 29(5): 665-675.

Pennebaker, James W., Ryan L. Boyd, Kayla Jordan and Kate Blackburn. 2015. The development and psychometric properties of LIWC2015. University of Texas: Austin. https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/31333/LIWC2015_LanguageManual.pdf?sequence=3. Accessed 18/12/2016.

Pennebaker, James W., Cindy K. Chung, Joey Frazee, Gary M. Lavergne and David I. Beaver. 2014. When small words foretell academic success: The case of college admissions essays. PloS one 9(12): e115844.

Readability Studio [Computer Software]. 2012. Oleander Software Ltd, http://www.oleandersolutions.com/readabilitystudio.html Accessed 03/05/2016.

Stotsky, Sandra. 1990. Do we have, or have we had, a literary canon in our secondary schools? What literature surveys reveal. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English (80th, Atlanta, GA, November 16-21, 1990), http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED326877.pdf. Accessed 12/12/2016.

Trope, Yaacov and Nira Liberman. 2010. Construal-level theory of psychological distance. Psychological review 117(2): 440-463.

Witten, Ian H., Eibe Frank, Mark A. Hall and Christopher J. Pal. 2016. Data mining: Practical machine learning tools and techniques. Cambridge, MA, USA: Morgan Kaufmann.

Journal Information

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 214 214 9
PDF Downloads 101 101 7