Surprising Frontrunner: A Look at John Kasich

April 14, 2016

Kayla N. Jordan and James W. Pennebaker
University of Texas at Austin

The 2016 primary season has been a dream for many pundits and a nightmare for others. Despite the leads which made Trump and Clinton the obvious nominees, the race remains contested on both sides. Often below most people’s radar, John Kasich continues to remain in the race and, as we move closer to the conventions, promises to play an important role. While we have never examined Kasich in this blog, his resolve to stay in the race makes him worth a closer look.

KasichPic

Needs for Affiliation, Achievement, and Power

Kasich stands out from the other candidates in being highly oriented toward affiliation as shown in the graph below. In the debates, he frequently mentions friends and allies and reveals a strong commitment to social relationships.  Whereas the other candidates are much higher in needs for power and status or achievement and success, Kasich cares about others on a deeply personal level.  This is apparent in the high rates he makes references to friends, colleagues, and people he has met on the campaign trail.

KasichDrives

Reward- versus Risk-Orientation

Similar to Donald Trump, Kasich is quite reward oriented. He is focused on the gains and benefits of his policies and on how things can go well and less concerned with risk and danger.

KasichRiskReward

Clout – Language of Power and Leadership

More than any other frontrunner, Kasich speaks like a strong leader. Those high in clout speak confidently and tend to use more we-words and social words while using fewer I-words, negations, and swear words. Kasich’s language conveys certainty and interest in others; he is self-assured and secure in his own status.

KasichClout

The Topics that are Mentioned Most

By the words he uses, Kasich is looking domestically not internationally. While Kasich is similar to the other candidates in his focus on the economy, he differs from them in his lack of focus on terrorism. Furthermore, Kasich’s frequently used words demonstrate his orientation toward affiliation (together, community, friends) and reward (grow, strong, great). Like Clinton, Kasich tries to drive home his qualifications (governor, ohio) and why he is the best candidates to improve the country.

KasichWordCloud

Final Thoughts

In the debates, Kasich pays attention to the policies and issues and less on the other candidates. When the other candidates attack, Kasich remains unperturbed refusing to talk about anything other than the issues. In an election dominated by big personalities, Kasich comes across as calm and relaxed, confident in his own abilities.

If Kasich manages to make it to the White House, his need for affiliation may drive him to surround himself with friends and allies. He would likely spend his time focused on domestic issues and throw his energy into economic problems. His orientations toward risk and reward indicate that in pursuing these policies and problems, he may overlook potential risks and downsides in favor of looking at the potential gains and benefits. His low power orientation suggest Kasich is not concerned with the status of others or his place in the political hierarchy; Kasich feels secure in his position without having to compare himself to others. As president, Kasich is likely to be a self-assured leader with clear direction and a concern for others.

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