Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Tale of the tape: Democratic vs. Republican platforms

September 5, 2012 by Scott Bomboy


Tag Cloud Of Dems' Platform

With the release of the Democratic platform, it’s time to get out the virtual tape measure to see what the GOP and the Dems are really talking about.

Constitution Daily took the official PDF files for each platform, extracted the text and ran the platforms through a few document comparison programs.

The end result is that voters can see what the hot-button topics are in each platform, and what themes each party is trying to get out to the public.

There are two schools of thought on the merits of platforms, in general.

Last week, GOP House leader John Boehner was asked about his party’s platform at a lunch. His response was closer to mainstream America than the Beltway.

“Have you ever met anybody who has read the party platform? I’ve not ever met anybody. It ought to be on one sheet of paper. And guess what? I was on this kick about at least eight or 12 years ago that we ought to have a one-page party platform, and that way Americans could actually read it,” he said.

But a study from the Pew Research Center shows that more people care about political platforms than convention speeches.

Pew said 52 percent of Americans were interested in the Republican Party platform and 55 percent interested in the Democrats’ platform. The survey didn’t ask how voters would get information about the platforms.

A look at the raw numbers from the platforms shows some clear messaging from the Democrats and Republicans—along with a few odd facts.

GOP Platform Tag Cloud

For example, the Democrats’ platform comes in at 70 printed pages, compared with 62 for the GOP, but the Democrats have 7,000 fewer words! So either the Democrats used a lot of really long words or they’ve played with the page-margin settings.

The Republican platform only mentions Mitt Romney by name once. In comparison, the Democratic platform mentions President Obama a robust 141 times.

The GOP also has dibs on proclaiming “We are the party of the Constitution” in its platform. The Republicans talk about the Constitution 62 times in their platform, versus 6 for the Democrats.

The most-popular theme in both platforms is “America” or “American.” The Dems actually use the words slightly more than the Republicans, but not by much.

And what’s missing from both platforms is interesting. Much was made of the word “God” not mentioned in the Democratic platform. It was put back in the platform on Wednesday night, as well as a reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Republicans omitted Osama bin Laden from their platform and they only mentioned Afghanistan four times.

The “second messages” in each platform also show key communications points.

The secondary Democratic message is “President” while the secondary GOP message was “government.”

The issues of jobs and taxes were also at the forefront of both platforms. The Democrats spoke more about jobs, while the Republicans were focused more on taxes.

Here is a synopsis of the key numbers from the platforms.

Length in pages: 70 (Dems) 62 (GOP)

Length in words: 25,579 (Dems) 33,000 (GOP)

Most popular theme: America (Dems) America (GOP)

Second most-popular theme: President (Dems) Government (GOP)

Direct mentions of the Constitution: 6 (Dems) 62 (GOP)

Mentions of their own presidential candidate: 141 (Dems) 1 (GOP)

Mentions of opposition presidential candidate: 22 (Dems) 10 (GOP)

Mentions of Bin Laden: 4 (Dems) 0 (GOP)

Mentions of Afghanistan: 21 (Dems) 4 (GOP)

Mentions of God: 1 (Dems) 12 (GOP)

Mentions of America (or American): 262 (Dems) 249 (GOP)

Mentions of jobs: 77 (Dems) 45 (GOP)

Mentions of Government: 55 (Dems) 157 (GOP)

Mentions of taxes: 82 (Dems) 99 (GOP)

Facebook likes: 1,200 (Dems) 3,765 (GOP)

Twitter shares: 1,884 (Dems) 3,738 (GOP), as of 9/5

It is also important to mention that the party platforms are nonbinding to the candidates. Mitt Romney has already said some platform points on abortion don't reflect his personal opinions.

And more than a few platform planks deal with issues of concern within party ranks, which haven't received a lot of attention during the convention weeks.

The Democratic platform makes it a point to target Joseph Kony, the African military leader, while the GOP platform condemns UN Agenda 21, a sore point for some Republicans.

Scott Bomboy is Editor-in-Chief of the National Constitution Center.

Recent Constitution Daily Stories

Can you pass a simple Supreme Court quiz? The “Nader effect” in play after Goode decision Constitution Check: Do voters have a right to cast their ballots before Election Day?

Sign up for our email newsletter