4th Estate Election Methodology

Project Scope

For this project, we are sampling a set of news stories from US national print outlets, major broadcast and radio transcripts that are covering Election 2012. These news stories are ingested into the 4th Estate database, parsed and processed.

Processing Methodology

The 4th Estate processing entails capturing, storing and correlating all statements (and the newsmakers of these statements) that appear in our representative news sample. All statements are assigned a set of “data-tags”. For the 4th Estate project the data tags are: newsmaker, topic (also referred to as message or issue), sentiment, and VoiceShare.


Every newsmaker (person who is quoted in the media) has its own set of meta-data tags: Gender, Newsmaker Type, Party Affiliation and Campaign Affiliation. The Party Affiliation tag is assigned to any source that is recognized as belonging to a political party: Republican, Democrat, Independent, and also Tea Party. The Campaign Affiliation tag is assigned to any source that is recognized as working for a campaign. Source Type is used as a way to categorize sources into similar groups.

Project Newsmaker Types

  • Academic
  • Analyst/Commentator
  • Attorney
  • Blogger
  • Citizen
  • Corporate Official
  • Federal Official
  • Foreign Official
  • Former Administration Official
  • GOP Contender & Staff
  • International Organization
  • Judicial Official
  • Lobbyist/Advocacy Group
  • Media/Journalist
  • Non-Profit/NGO
  • Partisan/Former Politician
  • Religious/Clerical
  • State/Local Official
  • Think Tank
  • US Representative & Staff
  • US Senatore & Staff
  • Obama Campaign Staff
  • White House Official

Topic Assignment

There are 13 project topics that we have identified as being major political policy issues for the 2012 election. There are also three topics related to the Campaign and the Candidates specifically: Money in Politics, Campaign and Character. A large amount of the news coverage surrounding the election is not specific to any particular policy, but is only about the electoral race itself and the behavior of the campaign and candidates.

Policy Topic List

  • Budget: Anything related to US government spending, the US government budget, general discussion of US national finances
  • Economy: General statements about the US economy, discussion of unemployment in the US, jobs, etc.
  • Education: Discussion of the education system in the US
  • Energy: Discussion of the energy industry in the US: oil production, natural gas, gas prices, etc.
  • Entitlements: Discussion of programs like welfare, unemployment benefits, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.
  • Foreign Policy: Discussion of foreign relations strategy, interactions with other nations, military strategy in other nations, etc.
  • Healthcare: Discussion of the US healthcare system and health insurance.
  • Immigration: Discussion of US immigration policy and border security.
  • National Security: Very general discussion of US national security.
  • Role of Government: General discussion of the role of the US government and its influence in the life of Americans.
  • Social Issues: Policy issues related to abortion, gay marriage, gun control, women’s issues, etc.
  • Taxes: Discussion of the US tax policy and tax system
  • Terrorism: Discussion of how to handle terrorism and anti-terrorism policy.

Campaign Sub-Topic List

    Includes coverage of the behavior of the campaigns such as Strategy, Debates, and Horse Race discussion.

  • Strategy: Coverage of campaign strategy. Includes discussion of messaging strategy, campaign travels, speeches and goals of the campaign.
  • Debates: Discussion of candidate performance in debates, importance of debates, etc.
  • Horse Race: Discussion of poll results, and position in the field of contenders. Discussion of which candidate won a vote, or who is leading who in the polls.

Character Sub-Topic List

    Personality characteristics of the candidate like marital fidelity, leadership, charisma, consistency (flip-flop), scandals, biographical information etc.

  • Religion: Specific discussion of the religious views of the candidates, and how this would affect their ability to serve as President.

Money In Politics Sub-Topic List

    Coverage of the involvement of money in the presidential campaigns.

  • Fundraising: Coverage of campaign fundraising, including discussion of fundraising strategies and events, and rules about campaign fundraising.
  • Advertising & Ad Buys: Coverage of campaign advertising such as commercials, Internet ads, billboards, etc. Includes discussion of how campaign money will be used for advertising.
  • Super PACs: Coverage of the Super PAC’s involved in Election 2012, including discussion of different Super PAC’s, their fundraising, use of money, strategy and role in the presidential election.


Sentiment of statements is broken down by each candidate. Explicit statements of praise or criticism toward a candidate are marked as Positive or Negative to that candidate, respectively. Statements that affect the reputation or alter the image of a candidate are also marked with sentiment. Other statements that do not contain opinion, or do nothing to help or hurt a candidate are marked as Neutral. If a candidate speaks positively about himself, that can also be marked Positive.


VoiceShare is defined by the share of total media coverage dedicated to a candidate. We are using VoiceShare assignments to tag quotes that are about each of the candidates. Any statement in which the subject is a candidate, or is being said by a candidate and is about himself, is tagged with VoiceShare for that candidate. For example, any statement that is discussing Barack Obama, or is being said by either himself or one of his staffers about Obama is assigned a tag toward Obama VoiceShare.