How the 2004 Presidential Election Impacted the Way Americans Speak
Danville, California (November 11, 2004) MetaNewsWire The recently concluded Presidential Election of 2004 has significantly impacted the manner in which Americans communicate with each other and not always in a positive way. For the eight months leading up to the Election, the Global Language Monitor (GLM) has tracked the way Americans communicate with each other about politics. To do this, GLM created its exclusive PQ Index (Political-sensitivity Quotient), a proprietary algorithm that tracks politically sensitive words and phrases in the print, electronic media and the Internet. Some forty words and phrases were analyzed for the Post-Election Survey, including flip flop/flopping, quagmire, Fahrenheit 911, liar!, and misleader.
The PQ Index is perhaps the most in-depth, algorithmic analysis of political word usage ever attempted during a US Presidential campaign. After meeting certain threshold criteria, the index measured how frequently the words and phrases were used in their given political contexts. Then were then tracked on a bi-weekly basis, with greater weight provided for appearances in the major media. Additionally, greater weight was assigned to changes in frequency of appearance the closer the survey came to the election, itself.
Perhaps the one point of agreement by both Republicans and Democrats in the immediate aftermath of the campaign was that moral values played a vastly more important role than had hitherto been estimated. This was re-enforced by the exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research with Mitofsky International for the National Election Pool, which distributed their information to the media through the Associated Press.
The PQ Index picked up this trend months earlier, when issues related to moral values would surface and then, actually, gain in strength as the campaign progressed. By the end of the campaign, these moral values-related words and phrases dominated the pre-Election PQ Index (Political-sensitivity Quotient) of Hot Political Buzzwords released on November 1. Specifically, thirteen or more of the top 20 words and phrases that dominated the media in the run-up to the election, can be classified as directly related to the moral values.
Both the major parties and the mainstream media appear to be surprised at the primacy of the moral values issue atop the exit-poll surveys, though they have used the terms tracked in the PQ Index some hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of times in the preceding month. What led to this miss was that fact that the moral values question was narrowly interpreted to mean the gay marriage and the Mary Cheney incident. (Both Kerry and Edwards cited the sexuality of the vice presidents daughter, Mary Cheney in their debates, a move widely viewed in the subsequent polls as gratuitous.)
In fact, the idea of moral values includes media bias, flip flopping for political gain, the question of a just or unjust war, the disrespecting of a wartime president (as in Fahrenheit 911), tagging the Chief Executive as a Liar or misleader and the rise of the uncivil war in political discourse / dis-coarse. In fact, The Top Five terms in the November PQ Index can all be viewed as related to moral values, as can be seven of the Top Ten — and 13 of the Top Twenty.
Another factor has been the rampant incivility be found in the political discourse in American politics which has reached unprecedented heights or, rather, lows. It can be argued that not since the Civil War era, when President Lincoln was frequently depicted by adversaries as a gangly, gaping baboon, has the discourse sunken to such a profane level. In fact, such is the decline in the political discourse during this campaign that future historians might actually wonder if the battle being fought was between the “Blue States” and the “Red States” rather than between the forces of Terrorism and The West.
This phenomenon is also related to the “Myth of the 24-Hour News Cycle,” where it is argued that once a politically-sensitive buzzword is launched into todays media world, it seems to persist for an indeterminate period, building a kind of media momentum and extending the news cycle rather than shrinking it. This persistence seems at odds with the general perception of the media being fixated on the 24 hours news cycle.
Some of the key words and phrases that have gained visibility during the 2004 Presidential Election follow.
Colossal Error: Kerrys judgment on Bushs Iraq policy. Evidently following California Olive Growers Association Guidelines for measuring the size of olives — Large, Extra Large, Jumbo, Gigantic, Colossal and Super Colossal. This leaves wiggle room for a ‘super-colossal error’.
Flip Flop/Flopping: Formerly referred to gymnastic routines, pancakes, and dolphin acts (Flipper); now a mainstream political term.
Girlie Men: His Honor, the Governator’s, characterization of political opponents.
Global Test: Kerrys description of the bar he would set before committing the US to pre-emptive strikes
Incuriosity: The campaign season with the President being labeled as Incurious George.
Jobless Recovery: A catch=phrase belied by the creation of 2.1 million new jobs in 2004.
Liars!: Signifies the virulence of the name-calling between opponent supporters. Bush wins the ‘Liar Poll with a 2:1 lead over Kerry.
Liberal: Now looked upon as a pejorative; for future reference, please use progressive.
Mary Cheney: For better or for worse, now a household name used in more than 100,000 media citations in the preceding six weeks..
Media Bias: A contentious issue, especially when used in conjunction with the Dan Rather “60 Minutes” imbroglio.
Misleader: MoveOn.org started this all by calling the sitting president a ‘misleader’.
Moral Values: Currently in more than 4,000 media stories; widely varies in interpretation.
Political Incivility: A catch-all category for various rude directives — Cheney, Heinz-Kerry, et al. combined here.
Quagmire: A fading, Viet Nam-era term rescued from obscurity.
Red States/Blue States: Before November 2, 2004, a relatively unknown term, a shorthand used by political pundits, describing Republican-leaning states vs. Democrat-leaning states.
Rush-to-War: The short-hand by Administration opponents for the run-up to the Iraq war.
Swift Boats: Might have torpedoed Kerrys presidential aspirations. Actually, Fast Patrol Craft (PCF), small, shallow draft-water vessels operated by the United States Navy for counterinsurgency (COIN) operations during the Vietnam War.
Two Americas: John Edwards frequent of America as divided between rich and poor, the jobless and the employed, liberals (err, progressives) and conservatives.
— Paul JJ Payack
Myth of 24-hour News Cycle:
(and Undermines) the 2004 Presidential Campaign
Danville, California (October 19, 2004) Though it is commonly assumed that the media is now on a 24-hour news cycle, the opposite appears to be true, according to an exclusive analysis of The Global Language Monitor’s PQ Index (Political-sensitivity Quotient). Though the day-to-day headlines of the 2004 Presidential Campaign are relatively transient, the ideas encapsulated in the political buzzwords that GLM tracks take several months to cycle through the electronic and print media, the internet, and cyberspace, particularly the blogosphere.
Once a ‘politically-sensitive’ buzzword is launched into today’s media world, it seems to persist for an indeterminate period, building a kind of ‘media momentum’ and extending the news cycle rather than shrinking it. This persistence seems at odds with the general perception of the media being fixated on the ’24 hours news cycle’.
The PQ Index (Political-sensitivity Quotient) released monthly by The Global Language Monitor is a proprietary algorithm that tracks politically sensitive words and phrases in the media and on the Internet.
A current example: the PQ Index has been the tracking the “Swift Boats” issue for over six months as shown in Figures 1 and 2. Though it peaked in the last few weeks at No. 1 in the August Tracking Index with the release of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads, it remains strongly entrenched in the Top Ten in the October survey. The evidence suggests that the issue will persist for some time to come; definitely through November 2nd.
Another example might be the labeling of President Bush as a Liar. This first surfaced in early spring as a result of ads launched by 527 organizations, such as MoveOn.org, in an action without precedent in the mainstream media, boldly labeling the sitting president a Liar. This was an early version of this years attack ads that would proliferate throughout the year, and was little noticed by the mainstream media at the time, except as a curiosity.
The ads, however, proved to be harbingers of what was to follow. Over the course of the next six months the label stuck, increasingly resonating especially on the Internet and in the blogosphere. This month the term sits at No. 11 on the PQ Index, down from No. 4 in August. In fact, Bush as Liar! is up some 1400% since the beginning of the year. An additional wrinkle is that Kerry, too, is now being labeled as a Liar! by his critics with nearly 40% of the references tracked by the PQ Index labeling the Democratic nominee as such.
Another example is the Dead and Done Presidents phenomenon. With the passing of Ronald Reagan in June and the much-anticipated publication of Bill Clintons autobiography the next month, these two former presidents, leapt to the top of the PQ Index in June and July respectively. In the October Index, they both still rank in the Top Twenty demonstrating the persistence of their long-shadows over the current campaign.
Fahrenheit, representing Michael Moores controversial film, Fahrenheit 451, took the top ranking in the July PQ Index, jumping some 400% from the previous month. Fahrenheit maintained its No. 1 position in August and currently ranks as No. 6 in the October Index. Mr. Moore, more than most, seems to have appreciated the new “Surprise” phenomenon, though for maximum impact he might have, in retrospect, released his film a month later, in August rather than July.
And now, in what could be a sign of mounting difficulties for the Democratic Presidential Campaign, this months top political buzzwords (including ‘Dan Rather-related Bias, ‘Liberal,’ Global Test,’ ‘Flip flop/flopping’ and Swift Boats) are creating an inhospitable climate, in many cases overshadowing the key messages of the Democratic Nominee, according to the October PQ Index.
In the October PQ Index, Swift Boats is actually getting more media hits and citations than all otherkey Kerry messages combined. These messages include; “Two Americas,” “Bush the Misleader,” “jobless recovery,” and “global outsourcing”.
With weeks remaining in the Campaign, there is a very real danger that Kerrys key messages will continue to be swamped by the “flip flop,” “Swift Boat” and “Rathergate” (and now the Mary Cheney) issues.
This is not to say that an October Surprise is not possible. Based on recent history and the uncertainty associated with al Qaeda it would be wise to expect any number of such events. However, the importance of the August Surprise with its attendant , momentum-building sustainability, should not be overlooked by current, or future, campaigns.
– Analysis by Paul JJ Payack
A Sound Bite is Born: Tracking Politically Sensitive Words in These Politically Sensitive Times (San Diego CityBeat)
For more information, call 1.512.815.8836, email info@LanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.