3:23 PM

Guest Post: BP Oil Spill #9


Meaghan Kenna
Matt Nobles
Kris Alley
Sean Hovelkamp

The BP oil spill was a major environmental disaster.  The spill has had a huge impact on many people locally, nationally, and internationally.  Much emphasis is placed on how the federal government reacts to environmental disasters; therefore we thought it would be interesting to do a study on how the reactions of the BP spill changed over time by examining the number of times certain words were used by the White House.  Our research question was the following:
How did the White House’s framing of the BP oil spill shift over time?
Based on our literature review of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, our group formed a hypothesis.  Before performing our study our hypothesis was that the White House response to the deep water horizon oil spill will focus more on environmental damage first and later focus on communities and solutions to the spill.
The main source of information for our study was www.whitehouse.gov , a website where government officials posted information.  We decided to break up the study by examining speeches and remarks, statements and releases, and the blog separately.  The weighted number of times certain words were used by the White House was analyzed to eliminate skewed data by the length of the speeches, statements, or blogs.
Our analysis gave the following results:
Speeches and remarks:




Statements and releases:


Blog: 






Overall, the White House’s framing of the oil spill did not change as much as anticipated.  The analysis of the speeches and remarks indicates that they consistently promised reparations while emphasizing White House involvement.  The statement and releases analysis however, showed that they increased the focus on BP and they decreased the attention on the White House’s efforts.   The analysis of the White House blog indicated that the White House’s focus on the community steadily rose, while the talk of disaster declined. 
These results surprised us, as they were significantly different.  We speculated that this was due to the fact that each one of these methods of communication was intended for different audiences as well as the fact that different people were writing or speaking them.  We saw a high amount of talk about the economy, which we didn’t expect beforehand, but now looking back at it, it makes sense.  Our economy is a big concern at this time, and will be addressed following  disasters such as this one.  We also noticed that the speeches and remarks made mostly by the president, did not mention solutions to the problem at all.  This is most likely due to the fact that they did not want to be held accountable for solutions to the problem.  As scientists and engineers would like for the government to communicate solutions to the disaster, but politics also has to be considered.
Some things that we would do different, if we were to repeat the study would be:
·       More key words
·       Lengthen the amount of time the study covered
·       Include more sources

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