Case Study: Using EffectCheck® to Better Understand the Lexical Effects of Mitt Romney’s Biography

April 15, 2012

By David Fogel, Ph.D.

Republican presidential front-runner and likely nominee Mitt Romney hosts campaign web pages that provide a biographical overview of the candidate, where he stands on various political issues, ways to get involved in his campaign, and so forth. Here we’ll examine the lexical impact of the content of his biographical information using EffectCheck®. The specific text can be found here.

Mitt Romney, the Problem Solver

The biographical sketch is constructed to fit on a single web page. No serious presidential contender’s biography would be rightly constrained to only a single page of content, but this likely reflects the campaign’s desire to have a concise biographical statement and move the viewer on to other pages, which may ultimately encourage volunteering and making donations to the campaign.

Romney’s biography is one of a problem solver who has faced and overcome hardships. These include salvaging the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and laying the foundation for an employment turnaround in Massachusetts. It also addresses his wife’s personal health concerns with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer, and highlights his care and devotion to their family.

EffectCheck Analysis

Despite the impressive multiple turn-around stories that are offered in Romney’s biographical information, the information is lexically weighted more heavily with words that evoke anxiety, hostility, and depression, than with words that evoke confidence, compassion, and happiness relative to other press releases (see Figure 1). This stems from numerous descriptions of the problems that Romney has overcome.

Mitt Romney's Biography Effect Check Analysis

Figure 1. EffectCheck Analysis of Mitt Romney Biography

As an example, consider the following paragraph:

Mitt Romney's Biography Paragraph Analysis

The words in blue are associated lexically with anxiety. EffectCheck also provides an opportunity to assess so-called priming effects by word frequency analysis. Figure 2 shows a word cloud associated with the anxiety in the biosketch. Common among anxiety, hostility, and depression are the words “fought” and “taxes,” which may work in the candidate’s favor with tea party members; however, the next most common words include “disaster” and “cancer,” and it’s difficult to imagine how these words would be favorable.

Mitt Romney's Biography Word Cloud

Figure 2. Word Cloud associated with anxiety


Mitt Romney is clearly offering himself as a problem solver for the country. The problem with being a problem solver is that describing the solutions first requires identifying the problems. And it’s often the case that the problems get more attention than the solutions. The Romney campaign devotes significant space to describing how bad things were in different instances when Romney took over, and it may be that this space would better filled with more emphasis on the nature and result of his solutions in greater detail. This may lead to lower lexical levels of anxiety, hostility, and depression, and instead evoke higher levels of confidence, compassion, and happiness.