What senators say about health care

As a copy editor, I’ve learned that a lot of writing comes down to simple word choice. Same holds true in politics. One word in place of another, or one word repeated over and over, holds immense power. In the ongoing debate over health-care reform and its implementation, senators’ manifestos hold keys to their stances, priorities and plans.

Below are two Wordle creations, using the text of 10 U.S. senators’ health-care manifestos on their Web sites. Each Wordle represents the top 50 words found in the manifestos, compiled together. One Wordle is from the text of five Democratic senators, and the other is from the text of five Republican senators. The words “health” and “care” were removed beforehand from both composites. Without scrolling below (read: cheating), can you guess which Wordle belongs with which party?

The top Wordle belongs to the Republican senators, and the bottom Wordle belongs to the Democratic senators. (Republicans: Tom Coburn, Sam Brownback, Jon Kyl, Richard Shelby and Olympia Snowe. Democrats: Claire McCaskill, Harry Reid, Debbie Stabenow, John Kerry and Mark Udall.)

Were you right? If not, why do you think you missed it? And if you were right, what words clued you in?

Wordle only tells part of the story. It measures frequency, not context. And you’ll notice a substantial amount of overlap in the words — insurance is the most-used word of both parties, and Americans is a word both also use liberally.

I have to say that the word that jumped out at me most was Medicare. It’s one of the “medium” words in the Republican word cloud, but is the second- or third-most used word in the Democratic cloud, more used even than Americans. Further combing suggests that Republicans are likelier to discuss the process and risks of the legislation — bill, senate, congress, increase, legislation — while Democrats are likelier to tout their legislative success and specific actions — Medicare, coverage, seniors, businesses, ensure. I thought it was interesting that words like coverage, seniors and affordable had about the same amount of usage by both parties.

What do you think each Wordle says about the parties and their health-care stances?


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