August 1, 2016
Trump’s RNC speech revealed a strikingly different person from what has been seen in dozens of interviews, debates, and earlier speeches. Has his personality changed or something else? Fortunately, we already have analyzed an ABC News interview with Trump with George Stephanopoulos, 10 days after the convention. Trump’s personality has returned! He is back to being highly optimistic (67), low in belief certainty (7%), and low in power orientation (2.3).
What explains the personality that came out in his highly visible acceptance speech? Interestingly, Slate and the Wall Street Journal has reported that Stephen Miller wrote his speech. In an analysis of a June 2, 2016 CNN interview with Stephen Miller, we were able to get a respectable speech sample. Interestingly, Miller’s tone (36) was almost identical to the speech. Similarly, he has one of the highest belief certainty scores (98) of any politician from the debates and convention. On the other hand, Miller used power words at about half the rate as Trump during his acceptance speech. However, the striking similarities between Miller’s interview and Trump’s acceptance speech could simply reflect Trump’s reliance on Miller as his speechwriter.
Kayla N. Jordan and James W. Pennebaker
University of Texas at Austin
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are officially rivals for the 2016 presidential election. Their acceptance speeches at their respective party conventions demonstrated the stark contrast between the two candidates. In this post, we look at three major points of divergence: the emotional tone of their speeches, the certainty they have in their beliefs, and the focus they place on power, affiliation, and achievement.
The most obvious difference between the two speeches was their tones. During the primary debates, Trump tended to be relatively positive and upbeat, but during his acceptance speech, Trump was uncharacteristically negative and pessimistic. Trump painted a dark portrait of the world. To him, the current outlook is bleak, and we have to “make America great again.” After several years of Democratic leadership, he argued that much must be changed in order to fix the country and set it on the right path.
Clinton, on the other hand, gave an upbeat, optimistic speech. Her language during the debate season was generally positive and optimistic, and her acceptance speech was even more so. For all the problems left to be solved, the nation is in a fundamentally good place. No matter what might be going wrong, people are capable of working hard and accomplishing great things. For Clinton, the American people should continue striving along the current path for progress.
Using our text analysis program LIWC, we simply calculated the percentage of emotionally-tinged words within the two acceptance speeches. An emotional tone variable was created where a score of 100 would reflect a perfectly positive upbeat use of language and a score of 0 would be completely negative. A score of 50 reflects an equal balance of positive and negative emotionally-related words. Across all previous debates this season, both Trump and Clinton have received tone scores around 60.
As depicted in the graph, Clinton’s language increased in positive tone from her debates whereas Trump’s became decidedly more negative. If you look back over our previous posts this election season, Trump’s score of 30 is lower than the majority of other politicians for any single debate; only 13% of politicians in debates had lower scores.
In addition to their emotional tones, another area in which Trump and Clinton differ significantly is belief certainty. When people are working through issues, they tend to use words like think, believe, and know which reflects cognitive processing. People who are no longer working through issues or who are more certain in their beliefs use these words less. In the graph below, we compared the candidates’ use of cognitive processing words to all the politicians in the primary debates and conventions. The numbers in the graph reflect the percentage of politicians who used more cognitive processing words than a given speech. Hence, higher scores indicate more certainty and lower scores more processing. For example, a score of 95 would indicate the 95% of all other speakers used more cognitive processing words.
Trump is more certain in his beliefs now than in the primary debates. Trump may have still been working out some of his beliefs in the primaries, but his acceptance speech indicates he has become more entrenched in his positions. Now, he doesn’t need to process his positions; he already knows what he thinks. Above everything, Trump uses language like he has the answers to the problems he is faced with.
Clinton’s language, on the other hand, is indicative of someone who may still be working through issues. While she was processing problems more during the primary debates, compared to Trump, she was still trying to understand issues. As was seen in the primary season, she engaged with the issues and her opponent, Bernie Sanders, shifting her positions to better match voters’ attitudes. Clinton knows her beliefs, but is more willing to think about alternate viewpoints and change her opinions.
Power, Affiliation, and Achievement
Finally, Trump and Clinton have different motivations that drive them. As we have discussed in previous posts, people naturally differ in the extent to which they are guided by their focus on power, achievement, and affiliation. Those concerned with power judge themselves and others by their relative status and influence. Those driven by needs for affiliation are more concerned with having and making friends and allies. Those focused on achievement use words that reflect topics such as ambition, trying, and success or failure.
Relative to Clinton, Trump is concerned with power and status. This can be seen in statements like: “It’s time to deliver a victory for the American people.” and “It is time to show the whole world that America Is Back – bigger, and better and stronger than ever before.” In the primary, Trump had relatively little concern for power. Now that he has secured the nomination, power is more central to his thoughts.
Clinton makes more references to affiliation and achievement. It was clear she was distinguishing herself from Trump responding, “We’ll fix it together,” showing the value she places on cooperation rather than power. Clinton was more oriented toward social relationships in general. She spent time connecting to other Democrats, thanking Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden for their work. Based her language, Clinton isn’t thinking about the power others have, but rather on what they get done and how well they work with others.
Compared to their language in the primaries, both candidates shifted their language in accepting their party’s nomination. Since becoming the official nominee, Trump changed rather dramatically from being relatively optimistic to being quite pessimistic. Was this new negative tone a calculated strategy to turn voters against the Democratic party? Or did it reflect some kind of psychological turning point that signaled his own his own anxieties or insecurities? His convention speech was also striking in that he used language with much greater certainty than ever before. During the primary debates, Trump was remarkably low in concern for power, but his acceptance speech revealed a strikingly high focus on power and status.
Clinton’s language changed less from the debates to the convention. Her convention speech was even more optimistic than in the debates. Like Trump, she was slightly more certain in her beliefs during the convention after working out the party platform. Even more so than the debates, Clinton is concerned with affiliation and achievement. Going into the general election, Clinton’s language is focused on accomplishing her plans and working with those who have supported her.
From a personality perspective, the convention acceptance speeches said a great deal about both candidates. Clinton’s language use was consistent with what we have seen from her in the last year and, indeed, since she ran for president eight years ago. Across time and context, her language has reliably revealed optimism, awareness of different perspectives, and a focus on friends and achievement. In comparison, Trump’s speech was a fundamental departure from the past in the ways he has used words. Normally optimistic, his convention speech was starkly pessimistic. Normally, acknowledging different perspectives, his convention language conveyed belief, unwavering certainty. Normally low in power orientation, his speech was quite high.
Kayla N. Jordan and James W. Pennebaker
University of Texas at Austin
Donald Trump is now the official presidential nominee of the Republican party. At the RNC convention, two of his former rivals, Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, returned for another moment in the spotlight. Interestingly, both also gave presentations at the 2012 RNC convention in support of Mitt Romney. Here we look at how Cruz and Christie have evolved from the 2012 convention through the 2016 primary debates to the 2016 RNC convention. We examine their language in their speeches and debates to determine how their emotional tone has shifted, how authentic they seem now, and how their thinking has changed providing a glimpse into how the Republican party has changed over these last four years.
Back in 2012, Christie was in his first term as governor of NJ. In his RNC speech, he talked about his own life, what he was doing as governor, and why he thought Mitt Romney should be president. His speech was relatively upbeat and optimistic using words like love, respect, and happy. During the 2016 primary debates, Christie lost some of that optimism, speaking more negatively. In his speech at the recent RNC, Christie devoted most of his time attacking Hillary Clinton barely mentioning Trump at all. His speech is full of negative emotion words eliciting anger and sadness like danger, death, and guilty. Christie’s latest speech is indicative of someone who is feeling defeated. Now he is stuck between the man who defeated him in the primary and a woman who he clearly dislikes, and it is understandable that Christie may be feeling somewhat depressed.
In 2012, Cruz was running for his Senate seat in Texas. He gave a positive, optimistic speech at the RNC convention discussing his own background and beliefs while endorsing Romney as the nominee. Like Christie, his tone during the 2016 primary debates was more negative and pessimistic perhaps reflecting a change in Republican sentiment. Cruz’s tone at the RNC convention this week was remarkably different from Christie’s. He had a very positive, upbeat tone focused on his own political beliefs rather than attacking Clinton or praising Trump. His positive tone was somewhat ironic given that Cruz’s speech was met with loud boos and cat-calls from the audience due to his refusing to endorse Trump for president. Perhaps, Cruz is moving on from his failure in this cycle and looking forward to his chances in 2020.
In addition to changes in tone, sizable differences in Christie’s and Cruz’s authenticity emerged. Authenticity is a measure of how personal and honest a person’s language is. People who are more authentic tend to use more I-words (I, me, mine) and relativity-related words like new, during, and near. Authentic people also tend to use fewer she-he (he, her, his) words and discrepancy words like should, could, and must.
Christie has steadily become less authentic, and Cruz, who wasn’t very authentic to begin with, was even less so at this week’s RNC convention. Given the highly contentious primary season, it is perhaps somewhat unsurprising that two former rivals are less than authentic faced with Trump’s nomination. In speaking at a Trump-centered convention, their support for the current direction of the party may be somewhat forced.
In his speech this week, Christie made token compliments to Trump but used his time to make a case against Clinton rather than for Trump. His language indicates that his support for Trump, and perhaps his opposition of Clinton, may be less than completely sincere.
For Cruz, much of the primary season was spent fighting with Donald Trump. While Cruz did not endorse him in his speech, he did congratulate him on his nomination and had to talk to a hostile Trump-supporting crowd. Given his struggles with Trump, Cruz may have found it difficult to be sincere in support of a party that chose Trump over him.
Belief Certainty: Cognitive processing
Cruz and Christie have also changed in their thinking styles since 2012. When someone is working through a problem and building their beliefs, they tend to use words like think, believe, and know. These types of words reflect cognitive processing. People low in cognitive processing are more certain in their beliefs.
Christie’s cognitive processing scores have dropped over time. He has become more certain in his positions and is thinking through them as was apparent at the convention this week.
Cruz has always been someone who is certain in his beliefs. Cruz’s cognitive processing has increased slightly over time, but overall is still low. Stepping onto the national stage may have presented Cruz with more complex issues, but he knows what he believes.
Chris Christie and Ted Cruz have handled the 2016 primary season and their subsequent defeats differently. Christie’s speech is rife with negative emotion indicating a sense of pessimism which may reflect his election defeat and rejection by Trump for the vice presidential slot. His language use also suggests emotional distancing. His convention speech is among the least authentic and most impersonal that he has given. At the same time, the cognitive process measure reveals a lack of introspection that he has shown in the past.
Although Cruz may be unhappy with the choice of Trump as the nominee, his language reveals that he is more optimistic about the future. Indeed, Cruz’s RNC speech was among the most upbeat he has ever given. Among all of the candidates — both Republican and Democratic — in the 2015-2016 debates, Cruz stood out as the least authentic and the lowest in cognitive processing (or, conversely, the highest in belief certainty). Along these dimensions, he remained the outlier. He continues to use language associated with deception mixed with a strong sense of certainty.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
April 3, 2016
Kayla N. Jordan and James W. Pennebaker
University of Texas at Austin
The candidates have certain phrases and topics that define their campaigns. From Trump’s slogan “Make America great again” to Sanders’ focus on Wall Street and the middle class, the words the candidates repeat shed light on the topics that grab their attention. Check out the words and topics uppermost in each candidate’s mind.
The words that Clinton uses reflect her orientation toward achievement, work, government, and family. In the debates, she often speaks about her accomplishments and those of the Democrats which is shown in her use of the words affordable health care, voted, and support as shown below. Clinton frequently drives home her qualifications and why she would be the best president.
Sanders knows what he believes and what he wants to accomplish and his words reflect that. He knows what the problem is (economy, middle class), who caused it (Wall Street), and how to fix it (education, health care). Sanders has a nearly single-minded focus on his worldview and vision.
Cruz’s words demonstrate his concern with power and status. Cruz is focused on the political hierarchy and his place in it. In the debates, Cruz frequently referenced both his Republican opponents, Trump and Rubio, as well as his Democratic opponents, Clinton and Obama. His word use also reflects his risk-orientation. In the policy arena, he has focused on immigration and terrorism and the threats they pose throughout the debates; more than any other candidate, Cruz is concerned with security and safety.
Trump’s word use reflects his simpler, more straightforward speaking style. Trump tends to use shorter words and a more limited vocabulary. Compared to the other frontrunners who used between 2800-3400 unique words, Trump only used 2192 unique words in the debates. The words Trump most frequently used also speak to his reward orientation with words like win, great, and tremendous. Compared to the other candidates, Trump is looking to payoffs and benefits in his plans and policies.
Similarities and Differences
The word clouds represent the most common content words used by the candidates in the debates so far. The larger the font of any given word, the more frequently the word is used by the candidate. Ten words are found in every candidate’s word cloud: country, ISIS, jobs, look, need, people, president, right, said, and work. These overlapping words suggest a few points of similarity:
Terrorism and the economy are important issues to every candidate. The candidates might disagree on the causes, courses of action, and ultimate solutions, they agree that they are important to discuss.
All the candidates are trying to direct voters’ attention to important points using phrases like look at the data, threat facing America right now, and we need to rebuild.
Every candidate is looking to the future and what they would do if elected. They are thinking past the campaign and to their hoped-for victory, which explains their frequent use of president and country.
There are also a number of frequent words that are unique to each candidate or party:
Health care is a major issue for the Democrats, but it is not an issue the Republicans talk about other than repealing Obamacare. Immigration is important for Republicans, but not Democrats.
When discussing immigration, the Republican candidates talk about the issue quite differently. Ted Cruz talks about immigration issues broadly using words like amnesty and law. Donald Trump’s discussion of immigration is typically more narrow focusing on the border with Mexico.
Interestingly, though terrorism is a common topic among the candidates, Ted Cruz is the only candidate to frequently discuss the military which fits with his more aggressive approach to foreign policy.
Kayla N. Jordan and James W. Pennebaker
Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin
As the competition for the presidential nominations heats up, we delve further into what the candidates’ words reveal about their personalities and psychological states. Using previous research, we explore which candidates sound most (and least) like a liar, a woman, a professor, a depressed person, and a president.
Who talks most like a liar?
In the last debate, Trump dubbed Cruz “Lying Ted”, and it turns out that Cruz does sound most like a liar. Cruz does not come across as a very authentic or trustworthy individual. On the other side, Donald Trump sounds the most honest. He may not be right, but he believes in what he says and says exactly what he thinks.
When people lie or evade the truth, they tend to use more would-should-could words (also called discrepancy words) and third person singular pronouns (he, she). Deception is also linked to the use of fewer I-words, words making distinctions such but and else, insightful words like think and know, words related to motion, space, and time like area and go.
Who talks most like a woman?
Interestingly, it is not Hillary Clinton who talks most like a woman but rather Donald Trump. Trump is a popular guy who is personal and, to many, likable. Who talks most like a man? Bernie Sanders.
Past studies have found reliable differences in how men and women use language. Women tend to use more social and positive emotion words while using fewer big words, negations, articles, and prepositions as well as fewer swear words, references to money, and numbers. A more feminine language style is often viewed as more personal and warm.
Who talks most like a professor?
Ted Cruz sounds most like a professor. Cruz is a smart individual who can juggle complex ideas and form elaborate opinions and policies. At the bottom of this list is Donald Trump. Trump’s speech is straightforward and uncomplicated. Voters may like that he is more accessible, but he may not as much capacity to handle complex issues.
The intellectualism often found in professors is marked by a more frequent use of conjunctions (e.g., and, or, but, because), negations, and words related to causation and insight as well as the use of longer sentences. This intellectual style is linked openness to new experiences and better academic performance. Candidates high in a more intellectual language style may be judged as more competent and capable leaders with ideas and opinions that are more elaborate whereas candidates low in this style may be liked for their straight-forwardness and accessibility.
Who sounds most like a depressed person?
With a focus on everything going wrong in the world, Ted Cruz can appear rather gloomy. To Cruz, the world is a dangerous place with a lot of problems which may not appeal to voters who want a president who is upbeat and hopeful for the future. Despite his campaign struggles, Marco Rubio sounds the least depressed. Like the other candidates he points out all the problems in the world, but he seems more optimistic that they can be solved.
People who are depressed tend to use more references to themselves, more negative emotion words, and fewer positive emotion words. Candidates who use more depressed language come across as more pessimistic and negative. This negativity can turn off voters who typically prefer candidates who are more optimistic and positive.
Who talks like a president?
Hillary Clinton sounds most like a president. Her years of political experience may have placed her at a better vantage point for understanding what a president is like and how to approach this office. Sounding least like a president is Donald Trump. Since the beginning of the race, Trump has been far from a traditional candidate, and his language suggest he is likely to be an untraditional president.
Based on past inaugural speeches, presidents tend to use more articles, prepositions, positive emotion, and big words. Candidates who sound more presidential may be judged by voters to be better suited for the office than candidate who sound less presidential.
Trends and Takeaways
The table below shows where each of the candidates stands on each dimension. Positive numbers indicate the candidate is high on that dimension; negative numbers indicate the candidate is low on that dimension.
The extent to which each candidate talks like a president may best speak to how suitable each candidate may be for the presidency. It is interesting to note that two candidates sounding most presidential are the two Democratic candidates and the top Republican candidate, Trump, is the least presidential sounding.
While it is now known who the most likely nominees from both parties will be, the race is not over yet. As the primary season rolls on, this analysis can further illuminate who these presidential candidates are and what kind of president they might be.
Note: Scores are composites of word categories (using LIWC) mentioned previously and can be interpreted as z-scores relative to other presidential candidates. Positive numbers indicate the candidate is high on that dimension; negative numbers indicate the candidate is low on that dimension.