Analysis of Republican nomination acceptance speeches, 1980-2012

Shifts in Republican Convention
Acceptance Speeches
1980 – 2012
Prepared by Upstream Analysis
August 30, 2012
The word clouds on the following pages represent the 50 words most
frequently used by each of the nominated Republican presidential
candidates at their respective conventions from 1980 through 2012.
The larger the font size of each word, the more frequently the term was
used by the candidate.
A “stop list” of the most commonly used words in the English language was
used to filter out terms such as “and,” “of,” “the,” etc.
The speech text used for the word clouds were based on transcripts
provided by CQ Transcriptions (2008), FDCH (1996, 2000, 2004), Federal
News Service (2012), the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
(1988, 1992) and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library
(1980, 1984).
Visualizations were generated using
Key Findings
Mitt Romney’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for president
was highly focused on biography with minimal discussion of policy issues
other than business and jobs. In regard to that biographical theme,
Romney’s speech was most similar in tone to Sen. Bob Dole’s speech from
In contrast, Ronald Reagan’s two acceptance speeches were nearly all
policy-related, with his first speech in 1980 focused on the Carter
administration, federal government and the economic crisis, and the second
speech in 1984 focused on the deficit.
In their first acceptance speeches, George H. W. Bush (1988) and George
W. Bush (2000) both emphasized their values. Their subsequent speeches
(1992 and 2004, respectively), were very policy-focused.
George W. Bush’s second speech in 2004 and John McCain’s speech in
2008 reflected the spirit of a country at war, an emphasis completely absent
from Mitt Romney’s speech today.
Ronald Reagan (1980)
• A very focused debate performance with (negative) emphasis on federal government and
the Carter administration.
• Financial terms were prominent, reflecting the recessionary times: economic, tax, money.
• Reagan also emphasized values, trust, leadership.
Pres. Ronald Reagan (1984)
• High degree of emphasis on the deficit and government spending terms such as deficits,
inflation, tax (rates), spending, control, increase.
Vice Pres. George H. W. Bush (1988)
• A somewhat unfocused performance with a lot of “soft” emotional words: children, family,
life, lived, loved, mission, moved, peace, young.
Pres. George H. W. Bush (1992)
• A bit wonky, using words like congress, government, spending, security, tax.
Sen. Bob Dole (1996)
• Several notable biographical terms like father, family, children.
• First prominent appearance of “war” and “god.”
• Dole mentioned his Democratic opponent’s name more often than any other candidate
analyzed except for Mitt Romney.
Gov. George W. Bush (2000)
• A values-oriented speech with terms such as believe, character, children, country,
generation, life, love, promise, values.
Pres. George W. Bush (2004)
• The most foreign policy terms used by a candidate in this analysis: Afghanistan, Middle
East, freedom, Iraq, liberty, terrorists (but not “war”).
Sen. John McCain (2008)
• A lot of terms with a hard edge: attack, fight, fought, power, tough, war.
• This speech had the fewest mentions of America/American in all the speeches
analyzed, preferring the word “country” instead.
Mitt Romney (2012)
• Romney mentioned Pres. Obama’s name more often than any other candidate analyzed.
• A biographical speech with terms like child, children, church, dad, family, kids, mom as
well as business and company.
• Other than “jobs,” the speech was mostly devoid of policy-related terms.