Science "proves": Nobody spins as much as Obama

Via PA Water Cooler, this reminds me of those dopey studies of mating habits I post in Headlines sometimes that “reveal” how women prefer tall men or men prefer buxom women. It’s nice to have statistical confirmation, but we’re not exactly breaking news here, buddy.

Even so. Trust in science, my friends.

Skillicorn has been watching out for verbal “spin”. He has developed an algorithm that evaluates word usage within the text of a conversation or speech to determine when a person “presents themselves or their content in a way that does not necessarily reflect what they know to be true”…

Each of the candidates had made speeches containing very high and very low levels of spin, according to Skillicorn’s program, depending on the occasion. In general though, Obama’s speeches contain considerably higher spin than either McCain or Clinton. For example, for their speeches accepting their party’s nomination for president, Obama’s speech scored a spin value of 6.7 – where 0 is the average level of spin within all the political speeches analysed, and positive values represent higher spin. In contrast, McCain’s speech scored -7.58, while Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention scored 0.15. Skillicorn also found that Sarah Palin’s speeches contain slightly more spin than average…

Obama’s spin level skyrockets when facing problems in the press, such as when Jeremiah Wright, the reverend of his former church, made controversial comments to the press.

“When you see these crises come along, the spin goes up,” Skillicorn says. “Obama is very good at using stirring rhetoric to deal with the issues. And it seems to work if you look at what happens in the polls afterwards.”

Cold water: The algorithm seems … stupid, counting frequent usage of plural pronouns as more indicative of spin than singular pronouns. Isn’t that going to queer the results for a guy known for mindless populist mantras like “Yes, we can” and “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”? That’s not spin, exactly, it’s just vacuous sloganeering. On the other hand, statements that contain qualifications are judged lower in spin than categorical ones or ones which contain negatively charged words like “hate,” a metric in which you’d expect the allegedly temperate, nuanced mind of The One to score better than that of the supposedly impetuous warmonger. Might the man who’s been telling his disciples to get in people’s faces and who’s known for creepy little campaigns to shout down his critics be less Lamb-ish than we thought?

A second study cited in the same speech says straight talk offered in a flat tone won’t win you many votes since it either bums the audience out or convinces them you don’t really believe what you’re saying. Gulp. Exit quotation: “The voice analysis profile for McCain looks very much like someone who is clinically depressed.”