Analysis Of Election Coverage So Far (Updated 22nd Feb 2011)

The repetition of names of persons, places, ideas and events, is used sometimes for emphasizing the importance of what a name represents.  Similarly, the repetition of sentiment-bearing words and phrases is used by writers and speakers to articulate their feelings and attitudes. During an election campaign, this repetition may have a bearing on the electability of politicians and on the reputation of political parties.  Using a news and sentiment analysis system called Rocksteady developed at Trinity College Dublin, we have analyzed a sample of the news published by Irish media between 27th Dec. 2010 and 21st Feb. 2011. The limitations of the Rocksteady system are described in the Disclaimer in the ‘About’ page: the computations mentioned in Nuacht are under constant review and are subject to change as we improve Rocksteady.  Neither Trinity College, Dublin nor Treocht Ltd are responsible for the contents of this post. (Details about the data used can be obtained by contacting us via the ‘Data‘ page of this post.)

In this post we provide an analysis of 3,024 news items, comprising 1.86 million words, published within Ireland:


We have used the Lexis-Nexis® system to retrieve news from 11 Ireland-wide news sources, including the Irish Times, Irish Independent and Irish Examiner, together with RTE, and 30 Irish regional newspapers .  The search criterion was strict and only those news items that had keywords Ireland and politics, or Ireland and election(s),  in the headline or lead paragraph of the news item, were selected. The Ireland wide news media and  papers produce tens of articles every day. The Ireland-wide news sources account for 79% of the 1.86 million words data collated between 27th December 2010 and 21st  Feb 2011 (Figure 1):

Fig. 1. The distribution of the number of articles per Ireland-wide news source in our corpus.

And the regional newspapers comprised just over 16% of the data (Figure 2):

Fig 2. Regional newspaper coverage of Election 2011

The coverage of political parties and their leaders

From our weekly analysis, covering  a 55 day period ending on 21st February 2011. It appears that Fine Gael is being cited more frequently than any other political party with FF in 2nd position: The vertical axis is the percentage of times in the overall news coverage that the name of the party has been cited either directly or through the appearance of the names of its candidates or both (Figure 3).  The citation of independent candidates is also shown.

Fig. 3 The coverage of political parties in 41 news source

The naming of party leaders in news may have an impact on the elections.  Citations to Enda Kenny show a steady increase ; Gerry Adams’ citation have increased, Micheal Martin’s citations show a drop (see Figure 4)

Fig 4. Weekly changes in party leaders citations

The reporting of political parties in major news sources.

FF is cited more in the  than any other party in the 5 major news sources that comprise over 60% of the 1.86 million Rocksteady has analysed .  The larger apparent coverage of FF may be due to the fact that it is the party of government and the citation of its candidates, who are still serving as ministers in the government, increases the FF count  in our computation.  If we take into account all citations then FF has over a third of the citations, FG a quarter and Labour a fifth.  This is followed by the Greens (9%), SF (6%) and the Independents about 3% (Figure 5).

Fig. 5 The coverage of political parties in 10 media sources

The presence of sentiment, and of concerns for our well-being as people, and aspirations of political power:

The overall sentiment remains positive but there is considerable volatility in negative sentiment: these sentiments were surmised by counting words that express concern or attitude with hostility, aggression or pessimism.  The words used to express deference especially ‘power’ show change over time.  The same is true of words related to well-being – references that may relate to national well being and the impact of economic and political events on the well being. (See Figure 6):

Figure 6. Changes in sentiment, power and well-being words

References to the economy and to the IMF and the European Central Bank

The concern about issues related to the economy varied over the last 50 days since 27 Dec 2010; the same is true about the role of IMF and ECB was also seen in the background (Figure 7)

Fig.7 Economy topics and IMF/ECB references


There are 517 candidates contesting the election, 448 male candidates and 69 female candidates.  The ratio of male to female contestants (6.45), does not generally correspond to the amount of coverage given to male or female candidates – on average male candidates are referred to 8 times more than the women; the best ratio for women-to-men citations is 6.3 and the worst is 10.7! (Figure 8).

Fig. 8 The variation in citations to male and female candidates. The ratio (on the right scale) shows ratio of male to female citations.

February 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm 2 comments

About This Project

Citizen Empowerment: An affect analysis of the coverage of Irish General Elections (Jan/Feb 2011)


Khurshid Ahmad, Principal Investigator, Fairachean Project, Trinity College

Data Curation: Nicholas Daly, Trinity College

Systems Architect: Barry Redmond

Data Collection (Online): Peter Dunne

Web Page Design & Implementation: Danny O’Connor

Promotion: Cillian Walsh

Analysis carried out by using the Rocksteady System developed by Trinity College Dublin, with Treocht Ltd., under an Enterprise Ireland Project IP.2009.0595

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