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United States Government Politics

Don't Read My Lips 66

scitex writes "Two economists, Rasa Karapandza and Milos Bozovic, from University Pompu Fabra, Barcelona wrote a very interesting paper "You Can Fool Some People Sometimes..." They say that on all US Presidential Elections from 1960, when presidential debates were held, won the candidate that used less future tense in the debate. First debate was televised in 1960. They predict that these elections will be won by George W. Bush. They used a similar approach to analyze performance of US companies and found that companies that use less future tense in their annual reports perform better. Will this change the way companies write they reports and presidential candidates speak?"
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Don't Read My Lips

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  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday October 29, 2004 @07:53PM (#10668891)

    ...that they used the future tense to predict the outcome of the election.

    • This may be becauseAmerican fear tends to be forward-looking, about the Day After Tomorrow in effect, with a hope of just-in-time salvation, or rapture.

      The tendency is also to hope that things can or will only get better.

      In effect, the election is seen as an exit hatch to a better ending, or another chance at getting it right.

    • I can't help but notice that a sample size of 8 is not statistically significant. You could probably find correlations with the colors of their ties, the number of times they blinked, or the position of the moon with a sample size that small.

      (11 elections since 1960, minus 3 for which there were no debates.)
      • It definately isn't. According to wikipedia [wikipedia.org] every president since Harrison(other than Reagan and Shrub Jr.) who has been elected to office on a year divisible by 20 has died while in office. Also there has only been 1 other president who died in office. Tehcumseh's curse has about the same sample size as this, so it should be clear that unless you believe in Indian curses(not swear words) any statement about this small of a sample has no applicability outside this sample.
      • If you read carefully the paper, you will notice that the main topic of the paper are companies and in the case of the companies they have sample of 555. And when it comes to presidential debates, they just make nice analogy.
    • , when presidential debates were held, won the candidate that used less future tense in the debate.

      Where I came from, won is past tense, but hey... don't let my illiterate hick colloquialisms get you down...

  • by np_bernstein ( 453840 ) on Friday October 29, 2004 @07:59PM (#10668926) Homepage
    Usually speaking the incumbent is going to talk about what they've done over the last couple years, and usually speaking, it's the incumbant's race to loose. That would account for the majority of the time that this happened, and the remainder is probably just coincidence.
    • Statistics are getting to people again. Specifically with regard to the reference to corporations, the relation is probably inverse: successful corporations tend to use the past or present more, rather than that doing so will make them successful.
    • Usually speaking the incumbent is going to talk about what they've done over the last couple years,

      I think there is a lot of truth in this. However, Kerry has been in the senate for a lot of years, yet I don't hear him talking a lot about what he has done. Why not? He should be showing how his record of votes, submitted bills, etc., makes him a better choice. But mostly I hear BUSH talking about kerry's past, not kerry, except for the Vietnam distraction.

      Check out the stuff kerry has sponsered in tw
      • Because Kerry is, indeed, a mediocre Senator (I do wish he'd talk more about his one truly shining moment in the Senate, his one-man crusade to expose Iran-Contra -- but of course that would require a challenge to the sainted memory of Reagan) but Bush is a terrible President. Truly spectacular fuck-ups on Bush's part are a lot more relevant to the election than any of Kerry's mild accomplishments.

        If someone robs your house, do you care that the cop who catches him is an asshole? No, because the other gu
    • Read the introduction of the paper and you will see that they take care about incumbent problem.
  • by Dixie_Flatline ( 5077 ) * <vincent@jan@goh.gmail@com> on Friday October 29, 2004 @07:59PM (#10668933) Homepage
    You can't apply them to an individual case in an attempt to predict the future.

    For example, the divorce rate in North America is very high. Pretend that it's an even 50% of marriages that end in divorce.

    If you get married, you are not beholden to that statistic. Whether or not you get divorced cannot be predicted by the statistic. You do not have a 50/50 chance of breaking it off with your partner. The conditions may exist that cause a 50% divorce rate, but they may not apply to you, for whatever reason.

    Predicting things from past results is interesting, and sometimes something to talk about, but they don't mean anything. Up until a couple of weeks ago, nobody had ever come back from being down 3 games to 0 in the World Series.
  • You use future tense because your present tense is screwed up so you use future tense to assure us everything is ok and enron is not falling to pieces. And everythign is okay, the entire world doesn't hate you and we're not goign to get lapped by the rest of the industrialized world while we insist evolution is just one of many valid theories.....
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And I believe US presidential speakery will remain at its current levels of excellency.
  • by mabu ( 178417 ) on Friday October 29, 2004 @08:09PM (#10668994)
    Why can't we redirect this kind of research energy towards applications that really have a benefit to mankind? How about predicting patterns which lead to cancer or destructive weather? Doesn't that seem like a more noble use of time and resources?

    What's next for these guys? An analysis of peoples' choices for celluar ring tones as they relate to their propensity to purchase expensive designer salad croutons? Stouffers is waiting anxiously for your results.

  • It was before my time, but selective lighting on TV might have influenced the Kennedy/Nixon results in 1960.

    I seem to remember when pointing became a bad thing. This is why we now see awkward hand/finger positions and weird flinging of digits.
  • Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Friday October 29, 2004 @08:16PM (#10669033) Homepage
    People are more interested in what you've done rather than what you say you're going to do which may or may not happen. Everybody knows that campaign promises tend to be broken so what you say you're going to do is going to be taken with a grain of salt.

    This campaign really is about what GW did and whether you like it or not. Not so much about what either candidate plans to do the next four years.

    I invested in my current stock AVN because they've done interesting things in the past, their stock history is good and because they had interesting current projects. I paid $1.76 a share and it's now above $3 a share. Their current project at the time is now showing real promise and getting some attention.

    • You make an excellent point. I would just add that it is not only about what GWB has done during the past 3.5 years, but also in contrast what Kerry has done over his two decades in the Senate and other significant life accomplishments.

      This is probably why Kerry took such a big hit in the polls after the Swifties came out with their book and advertisements. People's character is demonstrated by what they have done. And character does matter, because it is the best indicator we have of how they will act in
  • by mabu ( 178417 ) on Friday October 29, 2004 @08:24PM (#10669078)
    This story conjures up some clever side-conjectures, such as the notion that you can create statistical probability for virtually any scenario you desire if you keep researching until you find the data set that substantiates your claim. I wonder how many sets of criteria these guys churned through before they identified a pattern that jived with something significant? It sounds like a great gimmick to use to get grant money. 1. Pick an issue, formulate a premise, and then 2. start mining historical data until a substantive pattern arises which substantiates your claim. 3. Profit.

    In this case, the future-tense references are kind of obvious if you ask me. People that talk about the future are often trying to detract attention from the present, and in those scenarios whether we're talking about a presidential election or a corporate report, tend to be reflective of whether or not the status quo is desireable or change is needed. Who needs a report to recognize this? If a company is doing badly, of course they're going to focus on the future. If a company is doing well, they'll be talking about their present circumstances. DUH.

    As a result, I'm inclined to believe the outcome of this upcoming election is going to shatter these analysts predictions. In the business world, you can't really get away with lying about the present to the degree Bush has managed politically, and he's invented a new approach towards attempting to re-invent reality, which I'm not quite sure the majority of the public has bought, so his present tense propaganda is a completely different monster than any historical data these guys might have used for comparison.

  • "Europeans who oftenly drive on the left side of the road tend to have a better knowledge of English."

    That doesn't mean that if you start driving on the left side of the road, that you start to become better at English, or if you'll learn English, that you slowly start to drift leftwards.

  • by jamienk ( 62492 ) on Friday October 29, 2004 @08:31PM (#10669125)

    I'd like to post this to suprnova but the upload page has timed out for me in the past 2 weeks. Maybe someone can try to put it on suprnova?

    I ripped these older Presidential debates from various websites. It was a pain to get them. Dowload the torrent here [torrentbox.com] or here [torrentreactor.net] or here [jdandrpm.com]

    • 1960: JFK vs Nixon first TV debate (4 debates, only 1st one in total)

    • 1976: Ford vs Carter (Johnson didn't debate Goldwater in '64, Humphrey didn't debate Nixon in '68, Nixon didn't debate McGovern in '72)

    • 1980: Carter vs Reagan

    • 1984: Reagan vs Mondale

    Low quality Real Video files ripped from streamings from the web.

    If you have other debates, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, Presidential and/or VP, or higher-quality of the above, PLEASE POST!


  • what the (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I think this is the most awkwardly written slashdot submission that I've ever read, and that's saying a lot.

    Read carefully: scitex writes "Two economists, Rasa Karapandza and Milos Bozovic, from University Pompu Fabra, Barcelona wrote a very interesting paper "You Can Fool Some People Sometimes..." They say that on all US Presidential Elections from 1960, when presidential debates were held, won the candidate that used less future tense in the debate. First debate was televised in 1960. They predict that t
  • by RotJ ( 771744 ) on Friday October 29, 2004 @08:54PM (#10669218) Journal
    is likely to give you many seemingly uncanny correlations between multiple events. The outcome of Washington Redskins home games prior to the election [snopes.com] has predicted all the presidential elections since 1936. The sale of Halloween maks of the presidential candidates have predicted the elections since 1980 [buycostumes.com]. Does this bear any significance to this election? No. However, on the surface, this new prediction seems interesting. A person's word usage is a reflection of his character, education, and background. And there's been plenty of [dailykos.com] analysis [overstated.net] of the word used by Bush and Kerry in this year's debates.

    Yeah, well whatever. The thing that bugs me most about presidential candidates is that they always say "when I am president" and not "if I am elected president", even the ones who know they have no chance of winning (like Kucinich). I know their speech coaches or whoever tell them it makes them sound more assertive and confident and blah blah blah, but shut up already. NBC did this too, with their "MUST SEE THURSDAY" crap. It always sounded like a threat to me. Oh. Also, have they done an analysis of whether the person who repeats the same damn phrases over and over again the most is more likely to win? Because that seems to be the strategy of both camps.
    • The thing that bugs me most about presidential candidates is that they always say "when I am president" and not "if I am elected president", even the ones who know they have no chance of winning (like Kucinich). I know their speech coaches or whoever tell them it makes them sound more assertive and confident and blah blah blah, but shut up already.

      It also makes you wonder why some (Kerry) haven't at least introduced the legislation that will enact what he's proposing on the campaign trail.

    • Let's see, we have 11 outcomes (elections) and a potentially unlimited set of random observations (e.g. who used more future tenses in debates). How many do we have to look at (on average) before we find one that matches, just by chance? 2^11 == 2048. Wanna bet they just kept looking until they found the one that matched?
      • Try to argue this in the case of the companies, where they have a very large sample. If you read the paper, main point is for the companies and not for the presidential elections. They simply try to apply similar behavioral pattern to the elections.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And they all predict different things.

    I've lived through several elections by now. There is always a tiny New Hampshire which always predicts the election since 1918 (until this time); always a sports team that wins when the Democrats win (until this time); etc, etc.

    In the modern world, we have a lot of things we can keep statics on; therefore, we would expect to find impressive simple coincidences. If you line up 10,000 people and they all start rolling die, and leave as soon as they get the first non-
  • by Onan ( 25162 ) * on Friday October 29, 2004 @09:45PM (#10669419)
    This is about as meaningful as correlating election success with sports term performance, combined length of last names, weather, or astrology.

    43 presidential elections (much less the 11 since 1960) are just not enough data points from which to extract any remotely significant analysis.
  • They need to add occurences of the phrase "we're gonna" to calculate bush's chances for election.
  • Use the present or active tense as much as possible. Never the future or the past tense. Future tense implies uncertainty. Past tense implies rationalization. Present tense exhibits a certain confidence in whatever statement you are making; whether this confidence is due to a strong position or a strong will.
  • by MachDelta ( 704883 ) on Saturday October 30, 2004 @03:03AM (#10670748)
    Will this change the way companies write they reports and presidential candidates speak?
    Oh great. So if Bush wins, my company will start providing me with "trainings for managements over the internets"? I think i'd 'quits my stupids jobs'.
  • Bush can always say "We're at war", but saying "We'll still be at war in 4 years" might not be a good idea.
  • We will have to wait to see if this will be true, will we not?

    Ahh, now I'll never get elected.
  • Will this change the way companies write they reports and presidential candidates speak?

    Yes. But so what? The lack of future tense isn't what's winning the elections, but merely a side effect of something else. That something else is easy to figure out: the average voter/consumer wants to know more about the practical here and now and less about the promises of the future.
  • " won the candidate that used less future tense in the debate" Yoda? Is that you?
  • Now, more than ever, it's plainly obvious we need better voting technology. The group with the best effort underway is the Open Voting Consortium. We've mentioned their open source, Linux based, paper ballot voting system before. Give 'em a look at http://www.openvotingconsortium.org Thanks, Ed Kennedy
  • "Will this change the way companies write they reports and presidential candidates speak?"

    Did we switch to ebonics all of a sudden? Let me try my hand at it...

    Yee-yah, the way they writes they reports is the shiznit! :D

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