Democratic Process: Not How the Future is Won

So much for the democratic process. Politicians like to think that voters listen for what’s important to them, move with their issues and, in a worst case scenario, vote with their feet.

When it comes to a word barricade, like the speech that launched a thousand sips this week? We just hear what’s strange.

New York magazine ran a word cloud of Obama’s actual State of the Union speech alongside the word cloud from what viewers remembered hearing.

Here’s the cloud for Obama’s actual speech — text size corresponds to the number of times a word was used:

All America Heard Last Night: ‘Salmon’

Those who believe in a healthy democratic process imagine that what viewers hear will skew towards our issues, but will roughly mimic the word proportions Obama actually used. Right?

Wrong. NPR asked listeners what they remember hearing. Here’s that word cloud:

word cloud

All we heard was “salmon.”

You’d think a population so disenchanted with the issues would vote with their feet.

Turns out we’re just thinking:


Image credit: Robert Couse-Baker’s flickr photostream.