Fighting words: the most common terms used in ads for Maine’s governor’s race

What do “welfare,” “work,” and “ideas” have in common? They’re all words Maine’s gubernatorial candidates are using — frequently — in television ads trying to win your vote.

As the barrage of TV ads from Maine’s gubernatorial campaigns ramped up in September, I took a closer look at the words used in those 30-second television spots produced by each campaign, not including spending by outside groups, which rose by about $1 million, across all races, in just the last week.

The visualizations below are based on 10 advertisements released by the candidates so far. The Michaud and LePage campaigns have put out three ads and the Cutler campaign has produced four. More details on each campaign’s spending on television ads through Tuesday will be clear by a campaign finance reporting deadline Sept. 23.

(A note on the interactive story below: I excluded from the word filters articles “the” and “a/an,” as well as forms of “to be,” prepositions and conjunctions, like “and.”)

It’s not particularly surprising that the top three words used across all of the campaigns (slide 2) are “I,” “Maine,” and “Governor,” but there are interesting differences in the makeup of which campaigns used those words most.

Cutler ads top the list for instances of “I” (not counting the contraction “I’m”), Michaud’s campaign used “Maine” most and LePage’s leaned most heavily on “Governor.”

The top words used in each candidate’s ads so far (slide 3) gives insight into the issues each campaign is highlighting early.

And as far as measuring the candidates’ words, there are some perhaps surprising results (slide 4) for the ads, all of which were 30 second long.

Paul LePage’s “Unique” ad had the broadest vocabulary, with 82 unique words, and the governor’s ads also had the highest average word length. Both of those counts exclude use of the candidates’ names, which throws the average length off by a bit. All were in the range of preferring four-letter words, so look out (the average word length of this blog post so far is 5.5, just FYI).

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Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.