Using discourse analysis for predicting winner – Modi vs. Rahul

Martin Seligman is authority on optimism. He predicted that people vote for candidate who exudes optimism. To prove this he did discourse analysis of two candidates for US presidential election in 1988- George Bush and Michael Dukakis.

Seligman and his team went thorough their interviews in newspapers, debates, speeches etc. They started coding these for words, phrases and body language that showed optimism.

They found that George Bush sounded more optimistic than Dukakis; hence felt that public will vote for Bush. Election results proved that they were correct.

Discourse analysis as a research methodology is not very reliable or valid. But in hands of expert psychologist like Seligman it is a great tool for predictions.

Today we have lot of material for discourse analysis- media articles, interviews etc. but some how I don’t find anyone doing this kind of analysis in India.



During current election, no news channel could say with confidence as to who will win. They spend hours interviewing Modi and Rahul Gandhi, covering their speeches in various constituencies etc. They could have hired experts to do discourse analysis and made some predictions. Instead they were more interested in collecting spokesmen who wasted time shouting at each other.

Indian electorate is not very different from US electorate, they too look for candidate who is optimistic and whom they feel can solve their problems.

Modi being a superior orator, scored over Gandhi. He sounded confident, optimistic (“progress of 125 crore Indians”) and spoke on two topics that are very dear to 125 crore Indians- inflation and unemployment.

Gandhi covered too many topics- woman empowerment, rural poverty, welfare, escape velocity of Jupiter for dalits, inflation, communalism, tyranny of capitalism and his family history. There was gap between intensity of his speeches and his optimism.


In addition to opinion polls, experts could have used discourse analysis to predict winner.


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