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Sarah Palin's words get data mined

Whoah, there's data here? Business analysis gets to work on VP transcripts

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USA '08 Business Intelligence (BI) is about extracting information from data. The name implies that it is only applicable to business information, but that’s misleading. Given the right techniques, information can be found in the most unexpected places - even in the speeches of vice-presidential candidates.

Sarah Palin’s meteoric rise to fame as the Republican vice-presidential nominee is well documented. From the relatively obscure position of governor of Alaska she was unexpectedly catapulted into the spotlight as John McCain’s running mate in the US presidential elections.

Even before the twang of the ballista had faded, concerns began to be expressed (mainly, it has to be said, by Democrats) about her ability to govern in the event that she becomes president.

Some of these concerns have focused on her apparent lack of knowledge of important Republican tenets, such as the Bush doctrine:

Others point to her verbal abilities, which have been mercilessly parodied by the media.

It has been argued that mercy is inappropriate since some of the most damning parodies have used the senator’s own words in their original context. This video shows both the parody and the original:

Part of the trouble appears to be that as governor of Alaska she developed a homely, cod-parochial way of talkin’ that is really meant to, you know, appeal to Joe Sixpack and all the fiercely protective lipstick-pitbull hockey moms out there. It has been further suggested that the Republican party, mindful of her growing reputation of only opening her mouth to change feet, has been coaching her in an attempt to replace ‘Palin-speak’ with the more normal ‘political-speak’.

This is not to imply the introduction of meaningful content - simply the replacement of down-home references (‘good guy’, ‘Alaska’) with politically charged words that imply an understanding of the world outside her home state (‘Afghanistan’, ‘economy’).

One way to test this is, of course, to apply BI techniques to, say, a pair of transcripts – one from early in the campaign and one from later. The two that spring to mind are her interview with Katie Couric, followed by the Vice-Presidential Debate. And this is precisely what was has been done.

It is important before revealing the results to point out that this is not science. There are not enough words to provide a statistically significant result, the context for the transcripts was very different, the subjects discussed were clearly not the same, and on and on and on. So, there is no science here. None at all. But hey, it does allow us to, you know, have a laugh an’ all, so we say, what the heck.

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