Wall Street Journal tag clouds compare Romney and JFK

Today’s Wall Street Journal Online uses tag clouds—the first I’ve seen on that site—to compare Mitt Romney’s statement on religion with John F. Kennedy’s statement in the fall of 1960 as he ran for president.

It’s great to see the Wall Street Journal getting into information visualization (a.k.a. “infovis” among aficionados).

No big story has popped out at me yet. Smaller stories seem to emerge as I look closer.

As you’d expect, “religion” (in Romney’s statement) and “religious” (in Kennedy’s) pop out to about the same degree in both. Kennedy’s “catholic church” also dominates, while Romney’s “church” is not so prominent. Romney’s “faith” is bigger than his “church,” while I see no word comparable to “faith”—except “catholic church”—in Kennedy’s.

Romney’s “god” sits in the third row while Kennedy’s sits way in back.

Kennedy’s secular words sit up close, for example “constitution,” “election” and “oath.” In Romney’s crowd, the ones about religious and fundamental beliefs sit close: “faith,” “freedom,” “liberty,” “god,” and “church.”

The Journal credits Chirag Mehta’s Tagline Generator script and Michael Porter’s Porter Stemming Algorithm, ported to PHP by Richard Heyes. I don’t know what Mehta’s tool does, but let’s give credit where it’s due. The function of Porter’s tool seems clear enough from the Journal’s explanation: it finds word roots, I assume to align multiple words of similar meaning into one.

I would reproduce the tag clouds here if I dared to. Information does want to be free, but I think this would go outside the bounds of fair use. If you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal Online, you can see it here.

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