How Metaphors Impact Political Discourse: A Large-Scale Topic-Agnostic Study Using Neural Metaphor Detection

04/08/2021 ∙ by Vinodkumar Prabhakaran, et al. ∙ 29

Metaphors are widely used in political rhetoric as an effective framing device. While the efficacy of specific metaphors such as the war metaphor in political discourse has been documented before, those studies often rely on small number of hand-coded instances of metaphor use. Larger-scale topic-agnostic studies are required to establish the general persuasiveness of metaphors as a device, and to shed light on the broader patterns that guide their persuasiveness. In this paper, we present a large-scale data-driven study of metaphors used in political discourse. We conduct this study on a publicly available dataset of over 85K posts made by 412 US politicians in their Facebook public pages, up until Feb 2017. Our contributions are threefold: we show evidence that metaphor use correlates with ideological leanings in complex ways that depend on concurrent political events such as winning or losing elections; we show that posts with metaphors elicit more engagement from their audience overall even after controlling for various socio-political factors such as gender and political party affiliation; and finally, we demonstrate that metaphoricity is indeed the reason for increased engagement of posts, through a fine-grained linguistic analysis of metaphorical vs. literal usages of 513 words across 70K posts.

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