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Measuring and explaining political sophistication through textual complexity

Benoit, Kenneth ORCID: 0000-0002-0797-564X, Munger, Kevin and Spirling, Arthur (2019) Measuring and explaining political sophistication through textual complexity. American Journal of Political Science, 63 (2). 491 - 508. ISSN 0092-5853

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Identification Number: 10.1111/ajps.12423


Political scientists lack domain-specific measures for the purpose of measuring the sophistication of political communication. We systematically review the shortcomings of existing approaches, before developing a new and better method along with software tools to apply it. We use crowdsourcing to perform thousands of pairwise comparisons of text snippets and incorporate these results into a statistical model of sophistication. This includes previously excluded features such as parts of speech and a measure of word rarity derived from dynamic term frequencies in the Google books dataset. Our technique not only shows which features are appropriate to the political domain and how, but also provides a measure easily applied and re-scaled to political texts in a way that facilitates probabilistic comparisons. We reanalyze the State of the Union corpus to demonstrate how conclusions differ when using our improved approach, including the ability to compare complexity as a function of covariates.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 Midwest Political Science Association
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2019 11:42
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2024 05:27

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