Spin Expert Discusses U.S. Election Candidates

22-Feb-2008 11:45 AM EST

Queen's University

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Newswise — David Skillicorn, Queen's University computing professor and expert in political spin, says Barack Obama has a tendency to spin his messages, while John McCain has the lowest level of spin of all the candidates " followed by Hillary Clinton.

Using computer software designed to detect deception, Dr. Skillicorn analyzed speeches by candidates for the U.S. presidential election from the beginning of 2008 to the middle of February. He defines spin as the way politicians subtly change what they say to appeal to the widest audience possible, while maintaining a level of deniability.

To view the results of his research, including an ordered table of the most "spinful" speeches visit http://www.cs.queensu.ca/home/skill/uselection/

"It's not a good sign when a speaker avoids saying 'I' or 'me,' " it shows a subconscious attempt to distance oneself from the text," says Dr. Skillicorn. "And campaign speeches may be extra-prone to spin because they're the toughest to make."

Dr. Skillicorn says the model for hunting out speeches that have a high 'spin-factor' focuses on patterns like these:

- Fewer first-person pronouns (I, me, my, myself).

- Fewer "exception words," such as however and unless, perhaps to keep the story simple.

- More negative emotion words, perhaps because of some instinctive distaste about deceiving.

- More action words, perhaps to keep the story going so that inconsistencies may not be noticed.

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