Tech & society

Obama v Palin : A Visual Analysis

Updated. Yesterday, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin delivered a short video statement on the tragedy in Arizona. Later in the day, President Barack Obama spoke at the memorial service in Tucson.

I’ve used Wordle to compare the two speeches.

Wordle - Palin
Sarah Palin On The Tragedy In Tucson
Wordle - Obama
Barack Obama On The Tragedy In Tucson

I’ve also written about the controversy surrounding Palin’s use of “blood libel” to castigate the media.


Wordle provides a visual rhetorical analysis of a text. The size of the words relates to how often they are used; I wish that color intensity was also correlated with word frequency (darker = more frequent) but I don’t think it is.

A few caveats about these Wordle images:

  • Obama’s text is a LOT longer than Palin’s
  • I did not add any “stop” words to the stock “a, and, the, etc” list that is in Wordle*
  • I did not conflate words — which I often do (singular/plural)

I am adding a Wordle of Bobby Kennedy’s remarks on the slaying of Martin Luther King as a point of cultural (political era) comparison. Arguably, 1968 was an even more divisive time than the one we live in today.

Wordle - Bobby on MLK
Robert (Bobby) Kennedy On The Assassination of Martin Luther King

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By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

2 replies on “Obama v Palin : A Visual Analysis”

My take on the Palin lack of “large words” is that we really aren’t reading or listening to her–her speech no doubt is a heavily edited approach, mostly by staff. I doubt we are hearing her voice as we undoubtedly are with Obama and Kennedy.

Another thought just struck me as I looked at all three (Bobby’s is the shortest, Obama’s the longest). Palin has the least focus of the three as evidence by the number of words that are “large” and the number of words in the Wordle relative to total word count.

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