Boring in a New Way: Estimation and Inference for Political Style at Westminster, 1935–2018

33 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2018

See all articles by Arthur Spirling

Arthur Spirling

New York University

Leslie Huang

New York University (NYU), Department of Politics, Students

Perry Patrick

New York University (NYU) - Department of Information, Operations, and Management Sciences

Date Written: August 20, 2018

Abstract

We consider the merits of claims that Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK have become more ‘boring’ over time—that is, less distinctive from one another in terms of their speech and style. We review theory and previous findings in the area, and note their ambiguity in predictions on this matter. We then provide an efficient new measurement model of distinctiveness that extends traditional efforts to statistically characterize the ‘style’ of authors, and apply it to a corpus of Hansard speeches from 1935 to 2018. In the aggregate, we find no evidence for the claim of increased boringness. But this hides intriguing covariate effects: at the MP level, panel regression results demonstrate that on average, more senior backbenchers tend to be less interesting in speech terms. We also show, however, that this pattern is changing: in recent times, it is more experienced MPs who speak most distinctively.

Keywords: Westminster, text as data, political methodology, stylometry

Suggested Citation

Spirling, Arthur and Huang, Leslie and Patrick, Perry, Boring in a New Way: Estimation and Inference for Political Style at Westminster, 1935–2018 (August 20, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3235506 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3235506

Arthur Spirling (Contact Author)

New York University ( email )

19 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.nyu.edu/projects/spirling/

Leslie Huang

New York University (NYU), Department of Politics, Students ( email )

New York, NY
United States

Perry Patrick

New York University (NYU) - Department of Information, Operations, and Management Sciences ( email )

44 West Fourth Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

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