Case Study: A Tale of Two Trump Statements

June 07, 2016

By David B. Fogel, Ph.D.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, offered two very different public communications in the past two days. Yesterday, June 6, 2016, Mr. Trump offered a statement on his ongoing criticisms of the judge in a lawsuit that was brought based on claims regarding Trump University. These remarks can be found here. On June 7, Mr. Trump made a public address at the conclusion of the primary election season. Those remarks can be found here. These two communications had very different emotional impacts, as found in EffectCheck analysis.

The Trump campaign statement regarding Trump University closed with high levels of hostility and depression. Confidence, happiness, and compassion were rising at the end, but not sufficiently to get on top of the evoked hostility and depression (see Figure 1). The statement would have benefitted from a stronger close in terms of evoking confidence, which would have been easy to accomplish.

Trump Statement 1 100-word Window

Figure 1: The 100-word moving window from EffectCheck assessing Trump’s statement on Trump University on June 6, 2016.

For example, the final paragraph stated "While this lawsuit should have been dismissed, it is now scheduled for trial in November. I do not intend to comment on this matter any further. With all of the thousands of people who have given the courses such high marks and accolades, we will win this case!" All that would have been necessary to improve the closing would have been to turn the subject away from this lawsuit and back to the presidential campaign and a positive look toward his vision of "Making America Great Again."

In contrast, in his public speech, the emotional profile of the communication was much different, closing with strong evoked confidence and compassion, and rising happiness (see Figure 2). Evoked confidence and compassion finished at very high levels, and happiness finished above hostility, depression, and anxiety.

Trump Statement 2 100-word Window

Figure 2: The 100-word moving window from EffectCheck assessing Trump’s statement at the occasional of the conclusion of the primary elections on June 7, 2016.

Also interesting was the difference in the words used in evoking compassion between the two offerings. In Trump’s June 7 address, compassion was most evoked by words such as “we,” “America,” “we’re,” and “people.” In his statement regarding Trump University, compassion was evoked by “fair,” “provided,” “asked,” and collection of other terms, but none involving the concept of “we” or America.

Empathy is a critical element of leadership and being an effective national political candidate. It is of interest to monitor Trump’s use of compassion in his future addresses. He has indicated that he will soon be offering a more detailed criticism of Hillary Clinton, who Trump asserts “turned the State Department into her private hedge fund.” It’s easy to anticipate such an address will be charged with hostility, depression, and anxiety. An appropriate use of compassion to support his argument could be particularly effective.

EffectCheck indicates that Trump’s use of evoked hostility correlated with his use of evoked depression, with little differentiation between the two emotions, except into the closing of the address (see Figure 3).