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Sentiment Scale Reveals Which Words Pack the Most Punch

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For world leaders, journalists, CEOs, or anyone who has ever had to explain a dicey report card, word selection can have an enormous impact on how a message is perceived.

Does it make any difference whether a presentation went quite good versus pretty good, or if an earnings report is described as awful versus poor? According to a new survey from YouGov, word sentiment isn’t as cut-and-dry as one would expect.

The United States of Sentiment

Certain words more precisely communicate positive and negative feelings.

Interestingly, very bad edges out words like abysmal and dreadful as the most conclusively negative phrase for those survey respondents based in the United States.

Sentiment scale for U.S. poll

On the positive end of the spectrum, perfect was most conclusively positive term.

Effective Words: U.K. Edition

The version of the survey conducted in the United Kingdom reveals interesting differences in how words are perceived.

Word sentiment UK version

In the U.K. visualization, words have a more defined “hump”, meaning that people tended to agreed on where each word fell on the 10-point scale. As well, there appears to be more mutually agreed upon nuance. The U.S. results showed less agreement on words that weren’t on the extreme ends of the sentiment spectrum.

In both regions, the word average was nearly dead-center on the graph and had the highest percentage of people agreeing on its score.

Quantifying Language

It’s human nature to attempt to tame complexity and bring order to chaos. Language, with its fluidity and openness to interpretation, has always presented a tempting challenge.

To this end, researchers have developed lists that ascribe a sentiment score to specific words. Using data mining techniques, it’s possible to gauge the tone of a piece of writing.

One compelling example of this is a project by data analyst, Susan Li, who ran a sentiment analysis on Warren Buffett’s annual shareholder letters, and found that the majority of the letters had a positive tone.

buffett letters sentiment analysis

The one outlier? 2001, which was a challenging year for a number of reasons.

As these techniques continue to evolve, we are likely to better understand why one person’s abysmal is another person’s very bad.

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Misc

Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.

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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.

Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.

Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.

In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.

The Methodology

V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.

Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:

  • Free and fair elections
  • Rule of law
  • Alternative sources of information and association
  • Freedom of expression

Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.

Which Countries Have Declined the Most?

The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Lost
🇭🇺 Hungary0.800.46-34
🇵🇱 Poland0.890.59-30
🇷🇸 Serbia0.610.34-27
🇹🇷 Turkey0.550.28-27
🇮🇳 India0.710.44-27
🇲🇱 Mali0.510.25-26
🇹🇭 Thailand0.440.20-24
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.380.16-22
🇧🇷 Brazil0.880.66-22
🇧🇯 Benin0.640.42-22

Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.

Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.

Countries Becoming More Democratic

Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Gained
🇦🇲 Armenia0.340.74+40
🇫🇯 Fiji0.140.40+26
🇬🇲 The Gambia0.250.50+25
🇸🇨 Seychelles0.450.67+22
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.280.48+20
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.400.56+16
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.420.57+15
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau0.410.56+15
🇲🇩 Moldova0.590.74+15
🇳🇵 Nepal0.460.59+13

Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.

The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.

With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.

Want to know more about democracy in today’s world? Check out our global breakdown of each country’s democratic score in Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022.
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