NPR logo About 'Fighting Words'

About 'Fighting Words'

Curious about what themes are being repeated over and over as politicians stump for the midterms? Which buzzwords are getting the most traction on the trail?

NPR's elections team was, too. So we're trying out an experiment that we call "Fighting Words" in an attempt to provide some answers. We're following about 60 politicians online, tracking their Facebook fan pages, Twitter feeds and websites and putting what they post into one big database.

Since tracking everything politicians say would pose a huge challenge, we've narrowed our approach to those three easily identifiable sources. (And while it might be staffers manning the Facebook page or posting news releases to the website, all of these sources are part of the overall message each politician is putting out. If you want to skip our filter and go straight to the source, you can follow the same Twitter accounts we are — here's our list. We're also listing the feeds we're tracking on each politician's Fighting Words page.)

Most of the politicians we're following are in closely watched races this fall, but we're also tracking people we're calling "influencers" — a handful of Democrats and Republicans who are campaigning for others and helping to set the tone of the debate.

So, now that we've scooped up all these messages, what to do with them?

We've picked about three dozen terms spanning issues like the economy, immigration and terrorism and we're checking to see how often they pop up in the feeds we're tracking. (You can see a full list of terms here — they include things like "recession," "Obamacare" and "stimulus.") By tracking the terms, we're hoping to give you some sense of what ideas or themes are dominant as we head into November.

We'll periodically pick a "Word to Watch" and show you who's using it. You'll also be able to see how terms gain and lose in popularity over time. And you can check on specific politicians to see what they're putting out in the digital space.


Designer: Alyson Hurt/NPR

Developer: Chris Schetter/NPR

Editors: Erica Ryan and Mark Memmott/NPR

Photo editors: Abby Verbosky and Jennifer Noll/NPR

Photo credits: The Associated Press; Getty Images; the campaign websites of Richard Hanna, Robert Hurt and Jesse Kelly; and the Steve Southerland campaign