September 11, 2012
By Kayla Klein, First Focus Intern Associate
Upon completion of both parties’ national conventions, the Federal News Service analyzed transcripts of language choices made by speakers at each convention. With this, the The New York Times created an interactive tool allowing users to compare mentions of issues important to them at the two conventions. The reoccurring use of particular words and phrases provides insight into which issues matter most to these political parties. Of course, there are some distinct differences between the words used at each convention, but an interesting middle ground also exists.
"...to create an economy built to last, we need to focus on middle-class families — families who stay up on Sunday nights pacing the floor, like my dad did, while their children, tucked in bed, dream big dreams; families who aren't sure what Monday morning will bring, but who believe our nation's best days are still ahead."
-Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator, New York
“That's what this is all about. It is about our children. It is about our families. It is about our country.”
-John Kasich, Governor of Ohio
“And today no parent has to worry that their children won't have health care because of a pre-existing condition.”
-Steve Israel, U.S Representative, New York
“We decide, do we want our children to inherit our hopes and dreams, or do we want them to inherit our problems?”
-Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator, Florida
“These investments are moving education reform and innovation and strengthening our nationally recognized early childhood education program.”
-Bev Perdue, Governor of North Carolina
“And your greatest ally in controlling your response to your circumstances has been a quality education."
-Condoleezza Rice, Former Secretary of State
At their national convention, Democrats tended to mention words alluding to social issues on their mind: education, women, middle class, and health. Republicans, however, seemed to repeatedly refer to economic issues; business, unemployment, spending, and debt took the lead during their time in Florida.
Despite the variations in their terminology, a few key words seemed to resonate with both parties. One of these mutual words was families. Several mentions of “family” seem to indicate what occupies the forefront of both Democratic and Republican minds. Both parties recognize that families are near and dear to American hearts, but has that influenced their policies?
America is struggling in some key areas regarding the family. To highlight some frightening statistics:
- In 2010, 22 percent of children under 18 were living in poverty 
- From 2009-2010, 16.9 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years were considered obese 
- 9.0 percent of parents with related children were unemployed in 2011 
- About 81 percent of young adults ages 18 to 24 had obtained at least a high school diploma or equivalency certification in 2009 
Regardless of your political leanings, your focus on social or economic issues, or your interest in policy, it is clear that the American family needs consideration. What words will the presidential nominees use in the upcoming months to address these needs? Only time will tell.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
 U.S. Census Bureau (2011). Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Age and Sex of All People, Family Members and Unrelated Individuals Iterated by Income-to-Poverty Ratio and Race 2010.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics (2012). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2010.
 Isaacs, Julia B. (2011). Brookings and First Focus, The Recession’s Ongoing Impact on America’s Children: Indicators of Children’s Economic Well-Being Through 2011.
 National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences (2011). America's Youth: Transitions to Adulthood 2011.