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Willemien Sanders and Mari Wigham

The media play an important role in political campaigns. Whether it involves political debates, talk shows, or entertainment, politicians on the campaign trail will show up to address different members of their constituencies with difference media preferences. Which female and male politicians and candidates appear in which radio and television programmes? Which political parties do they represent? Which politicians, candidates and parties are discussed and by whom? Which topics do they address?

Researchers and developers from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Utrecht University and NISV collaborate to explore how data analysis with technologies such as facial recognition, speaker recognition, and speech recognition might help answer these questions.


The data used for this research includes ASR files of about 50 programmes broadcast between 1 February and 16 March 2021 (the day before the elections). It also relies on facial and voice recognition of 220 politicians, their gender based on the list of candidates and the political parties’ websites, and topics gleaned from statements in the 2021 Kieskompas voting aid application, the programmes of the political parties, supplemented by synonyms and other relevant terms.

Research questions

The research questions we will address in this project include:

  1. Which politicians are speaking?
  2. Which topics do they discuss?
  3. For how long are they speaking?
  4. Who is spoken about?

For each of these questions, we will also look at the results per gender and per political party.