Saturday, October 13, 2012

Presidential Debate Numbers

The last presidential debate was really interesting from the perspective of the numbers used by the two candidates. Both candidates started off with small numbers then went to big numbers and finally finished up with specific numbers.

By this I mean the numbers used by the candidates when they are trying to score points. At the beginning of the debate the numbers were mostly single digit with Obama using 4,5,2 and 46 while Romney used 4,3,5,1,2,3,4,5,4, 30 and 4. This went on for some 5 to 8  minutes or so and then they got into the big numbers such as millions, billions and trillions such as 2 million, 3.5 trillion and so on. Then came the specific numbers like 4,300, 3,600 and so on. The rest of the debate was a mixture of all sorts of numbers with the large numbers being the most frequently referred to.

The other interesting way of analyzing the debate numerically is the type of numbers they used; were they cardinal, nominal, or ordinal numbers? For the most part they were cardinal or counting numbers but Romney did use quite a few nominal numbers in referring to his 5-point plan. There is yet a third way of looking at the numbers which involves identifying whether the candidates use a referent or not when using a number. For the most part the referents are not included especially when the number is in the mill-, bill-, or trillion (e.g. "the national debt is at 3.5 trillion").

After you've heard these big numbers over and over again they begin to lose their intended meaning because they are not intentionally connected to referents. It's much easier to throw around numbers rather than use logical, reasoned arguments to make a point in a discussion. In the end, though, the numbers will just become hollow words without any real meaning.

Here are some even bigger numbers the candidates could use to further their arguments. They've used up to several trillion. They could go on to use quadrillion, sextillion, nonillion or, to really make a splash, they could use septendicillion or the very apt novemdecillion (this would be 1 followed by 60 zeros).

It's fun to note the numbers people use when you are in a meeting. Keep a note of the numbers  and develop a PNP, a personal numerical profile, for each person.

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