Nav: Home

Differences in the rhetorical styles of candidates in the 2016 US presidential election

February 20, 2017

A new paper published in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities reveals and quantifies dramatic differences in the speaking styles of candidates in the 2016 United States presidential election. Lexical analysis indicates that President Donald Trump had a distinct communication style, and it was far more direct than any of the other candidates.

The most frequently used thematic words are very similar across politicians, with 'people' appearing in the top 4 for 7/9 candidates, and 'say' for 5/9. Trump and Hillary Clinton had 3 out of 4 most-used words the same.

Researchers here analyzed the transcripts of the TV debates involving Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Martin O'Malley, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.

According to several overall stylistic indicators, candidate Trump used a simple communication style, avoiding complex formulation and vocabulary. The authors analysed lexical density - or how much actual information there was in the words spoken. Trump scored the lowest for lexical density, and he also reused the same phrases more than other candidates.

Former governors (Bush and Kasich) tend to use "we" more frequently than "I." Usually Senators (Cruz, Paul, Clinton, and Sanders) tend to prefer using the pronoun "I."

Donald Trump presents an atypical figure, employing short sentences, a reduced vocabulary, repeating the same arguments with simple words. He is the single candidate to have the pronoun "I" in the second rank (after the article "the").

Hillary Clinton can also be characterized by a large use of the pronoun I. The candidates who stayed longer in the campaign had a clear preference for "I" over the "we." When considering overall stylistic indicators, Clinton, O'Malley, and Sanders presented a high lexical density value as well as a higher number of long and complex words than the mean.

Long sentences were preferred by O'Malley, Clinton, and Sanders. A relatively high lexical density percentage indicates a more complex text, containing more information. Using the transcripts of the TV debates, the lexical density values varied from 36.6% (Trump) to 44.6% (Cruz).

The percentage of long or complex words varied from 18.3% (Trump) to 26.4% (Cruz, and Sanders). Senators Cruz and O'Malley had a more sophisticated communication style, employing longer sentences, and a more complex lexicon.

An analysis of the top ten most specific terms per candidate reveals interesting specifics about their campaigns. Top terms used by Jeb Bush included "proven," "status," and "brother." Top terms used by Martin O'Malley included "actually" and "Maryland." Sanders preferred "Wall Street," "wealth," "class," and "billionaire." Top Clinton words included "comprehensive," "affordable," and "try." Among the top ten specific words used by Trump in the course of his campaign were "I," "Mexico," "deal," and "tremendous."

"As Trump won the primaries and the general election, does that mean that efficient communication must be based on tweet-like rhetoric and this form will dominate the future elections?" asked lead author Jacques Savoy. "Clearly the rhetoric evolution goes towards to short communication messages, but this also implies simplistic analysis and solutions? If the answer is affirmative, I see a real risk of the democracy."
-end-
The paper "Analysis of the Style and the Rhetoric of the 2016 US Presidential Primaries" is available at: https://academic.oup.com/dsh/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/llc/fqx007/2993886/Analysis-of-the-style-and-the-rhetoric-of-the-2016?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Direct correspondence to:

Jacques Savoy
University of Neuchatel
rue Emile Argand 11
2000 Neuchatel, Switzerland
Jacques.Savoy@unine.ch

To request a copy of the study, please contact: Daniel Luzer- daniel.luzer@oup.com or 212-743-6113

Sharing on social media? Find Oxford Journals online at @OxfordJournals

Oxford University Press USA

Related Candidates Articles:

Essential oil components can be tested as drug candidates
A research team at the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology and the KU Leuven Department of Biology showed that, contrary to generally held belief, most components of essential oils could meet the criteria set for drug candidates.
Social media content matters for job candidates, researchers find
According to researchers at Penn State, job recruiters are less likely to select candidates who appear to be too self-involved or opinionated in their social media posts.
University of Miami team investigates why candidates for cochlear implants rarely get them
University of Miami researchers published a study in JAMA Oncology-Head and Neck Surgery that examines why adult candidates for cochlear implants rarely get them.
Voters agree with polls that favor their candidates
With the presidential election a year away, pollsters will barrage the country with poll questions to get the pulse of the voters about the candidates.
Liver-chip predicts the toxicity of drug candidates across species
Researchers have created a 'Liver-Chip' using Organs-on-Chips technology that can predict and characterize the liver toxicity of various drug candidates and compounds in rats, dogs, and humans.
PolyU develops a new class of antibiotic candidates for fighting against superbugs
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has developed a new class of antibiotic drug candidates which has high potential to be developed into a new generation of antibiotics fighting against multi-drug resistant superbugs including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Voters really want presidential candidates to talk more about science
A large majority of Iowans (74 percent) say it is important for the presidential candidates to talk about how science and scientific research will affect their policymaking decisions, but only 22 percent recall them discussing science issues during the past two months.
When considering presidential candidates, age is just a number
A new white paper shows there is no such thing as being too old to be president.
New methods to identify Alzheimer's drug candidates with anti-aging properties
Old age is the greatest risk factor for many diseases, including Alzheimer's disease (AD) and cancer.
Tracking down microRNA candidates that can contribute to disease
A novel computational tool called ADmiRE extensively annotates human microRNA variants to determine which ones are likely to contribute to or cause diseases.
More Candidates News and Candidates Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.