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Business - Written by on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 9:17 - 3 Comments

What are they saying in Congress?


Wordles can be a great way to visualize political discourse, especially when you use them in comparative form.  After Inauguration Day in January, Naumi wrote an excellent post , using IBM’s ManyEyes analysis to compare Obama’s inaugural speech to those of his predecessors.

These three tag clouds were all pulled from the Capitol Words Application, another development from the Sunlight Foundation (who we’ve written about previously – here, here and here).  Capitol Words is a program that takes every word entered into the congressional record and archives it online in a mashable and searchable form.  With different search metrics and visual aids, it allows you to see who’s saying what – broken down by individual, state or date.  One application lists the “10 most vocal” and “10 quietest” lawmakers of the last 60 days (over this most recent period, Michael Michaud has only uttered 8 words in Congress, while Richard Durbin has said almost 70 000).

Above, I’ve copied 3 tag clouds.  One of them represents all the words that John McCain has entered into Congressional Records over the past year.  Another one is from Nancy Pelosi, and the third is from all the representatives from the state of Massachusetts.  Can you guess which is which?

Too easy?

If you got the first three, here’s a more challenging one:

Representing all the words that he/she entered into record over the past 12 months, which well-known member of Congress does this cloud belong to?  (note:  I had to blur out the name of the state to avoid giving away the answer)



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Kyle Maxwell
Mar 25, 2009 11:32

Had to go look up the first three. I got McCain right (the left graphic), but turns out that Pelosi is the right graphic, not the center one as I’d guessed.

I’d be interested in seeing some sort of metric for overlap or deviation — how similar are their word frequencies? Any correlations (e.g. region rather than party)?

Mar 27, 2009 10:35

The McCain one threw me because none of the word clouds had “my friends” in it.

“tibet” was the dead giveaway for Pelosi though.

Alex Marshall
Mar 27, 2009 14:12

Jon, in response to your first point, I’m guessing that the answer stems from the fact that Congress is predominantly Democrats right now.

Kyle, to answer your question, check out the compare feature:
http://www.capitolwords.org/compare – this might be what you’re looking for.

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