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  

Justin H. Gross

University of Massachusetts Amherst - Department of Political Science

Brice Acree

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Yanchuan Sim

Carnegie Mellon University

Noah A. Smith

Carnegie Mellon University - School of Computer Science

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Gross, Justin H. and Acree, Brice and Sim, Yanchuan and Smith, Noah A., Testing the Etch-a-Sketch Hypothesis: A Computational Analysis of Mitt Romney's Ideological Makeover During the 2012 Primary vs. General Elections (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper; American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2299991

Justin H. Gross (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts Amherst - Department of Political Science ( email )

Thompson Hall
Amherst, MA 01003
United States

Brice Acree

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Yanchuan Sim

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

No Address Available

Noah A. Smith

Carnegie Mellon University - School of Computer Science ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
United States

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