Biden vs. Ryan: A Throwback to Blunders, Flubs, and Gaffes

October 12, 2012

by Cindy K. Chung and James W. Pennebaker

In last night’s (10/11/12) vice-presidential debates, Vice President Joseph Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan presented their views on domestic and foreign policies. Martha Raddatz of ABC News moderated the debate.  Using our word watching tools, we noticed some interesting throwbacks to previous blunders, flubs, and gaffes by each party.

At one point in the evening, in defense of several unfortunate comments that Romney has made in recent weeks, Ryan made an indirect reference to Biden’s previous blunders: “I think the Vice President knows very well that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”  Biden seemed to take the comment in stride (chuckling, “But I always say what I mean.”), and took the opportunity to again emphasize Romney’s disparaging 47% comment.

Ryan was the most emotionally expressive in his word use (5.45% of his overall word use were emotional words) relative to Biden last night (4.81%), and relative to Obama (4.73%) and Romney’s (4.87%) in the first Presidential debate last week (see our 10/3/12 post below).  This effect was largely due to his greater use of negative emotion words (2.39% vs. 1.96% by Biden, 1.93% by Romney, and 1.15% by Obama).  Both vice-presidential candidates were more hostile than the presidential candidates, using anger words at twice the rate of the presidential candidates.  Based on his function word use, Ryan was by far the least authentic of the four candidates.

Interestingly, Ryan used first person plural pronouns (e.g. we, us, our, etc.) at high rates (4.56% vs. 3.04% by Biden, 2.29% by Romney, and 3.51% by Obama), perhaps having taken Romney’s erroneous introduction of his running mate as “the next President” too seriously, or more likely, perhaps subtly reaffirming Ryan’s strategic role in warming more right wing supporters to the Republican ticket.

See what else we’ve been working on….  

More analyses on Word Watchers to follow.

For real-time language-based data visualizations of the second (10/16/12) and third (10/22/12) Presidential debates, tune in live to, a collaborative project by the renowned art and technology studio, Sosolimited.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: