Testing the Etch-a-Sketch Hypothesis: A Computational Analysis of Mitt Romney's Ideological Makeover During the 2012 Primary vs. General Elections
39 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2013
Date Written: 2013
Downsian theory predicts that presidential candidates should shift toward the general electorate's median voter after securing their parties' nominations. Motivated by this largely untested hypothesis, we test the theory using candidates' campaign speeches as data. We develop a model to identify ideological cues in political text. After performing validation and robustness checks, we fit the model using presidential candidates' speeches from 2008 and 2012. The results show that Barack Obama, John McCain and Mitt Romney did indeed make substantively significant rhetorical shifts away from the ideological extremes after securing their parties' presidential nominations.
Keywords: Political communication, text analysis, ideology, latent variable measurement, natural language processing, U.S. presidential elections, median voter
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