June 13, 2016
By David B. Fogel, Ph.D.
Donald Trump was interviewed recently by columnist Cal Thomas. The transcript of the interview can be found here. In this interview, Thomas asked Trump to discuss disparate topics, ranging from his thoughts on President Obama’s impact on America to his thought on Jesus. I grouped his responses into 6 different categories:
and then analyzed each subject for its lexical emotional impact using EffectCheck® (scoring on Political Speech). While someone else might group statements differently, the overall results reveal one consistent pattern that likely hurts Trump in connecting with some voters, but would be remedied easily.
Figure 1 shows the EffectCheck histogram of lexical evoked emotions for times when Trump when generally addressing himself. For example, “I am a person who grew up with two wonderful parents and a wonderful family and a person who has done well in life.” In these cases, Trump’s emotional affect is high in confidence and happiness, and notably low in compassion. As expected, when addressing matters about himself, he evokes low levels of anxiety, hostility, and depression.
Figure 1. EffectCheck histogram for Thomas’ Interview of Trump when Trump is speaking primarily about himself.
Figure 2 shows Trump’s evoked emotions when addressing the topic of President Obama. He evokes a high level of depression, but curiously a low level of anxiety and hostility. In particular, raising anxiety could be very beneficial as a tool to evoke behaviors that would benefit Trump (for example, voting for him to repeal Obama’s policies). By relying heavily on evoked depression, the listener is put in an undesirable state, but it doesn’t come with the motivation that anxiety generates. In addition, his use of optimistic words is unnecessarily high to what would likely suit his purposes.
Figure 2. EffectCheck histogram for Thomas’ Interview of Trump when Trump is speaking primarily about President Obama.
Figure 3 shows the EffectCheck analysis for when Trump is addressing America and also its relations with other countries. Remarkably, the evoked emotional levels for almost all measured emotions is low. This is a missed opportunity. Understandably, depression is evoked at least at typical levels for political discourse. But what’s missing is the optimism (happiness) that would have emerged naturally from a politician like Ronald Reagan, who at the same time would have just as effectively addressed each of the problems that Trump spoke about.
Figure 3. EffectCheck histogram for Thomas’ Interview of Trump when Trump is speaking primarily about America and the World.
Figure 4 shows EffectCheck analysis of when Trump is discussing Hillary Clinton. No surprise, he evokes very high levels of hostility and depression, but again misses the opportunity to evoke anxiety at the same time. Note also there’s a dearth of evoked compassion, confidence, or happiness.
Figure 4. EffectCheck histogram for Thomas’ Interview of Trump when Trump is speaking primarily about Hillary Clinton.
Figure 5 shows the EffectCheck analysis of when Trump addressed being president , and specifically differences to being in business. Here, for the only time, he evokes higher than typical levels of compassion but misses the opportunity to evoke more confidence and happiness.
Figure 5. EffectCheck histogram for Thomas’ Interview of Trump when Trump is speaking about being president.
Figure 6 shows the EffectCheck results for the brief section that was Trump’s response to Thomas’ question “Who do you say Jesus is?” Here, Trump evokes very high levels of confidence, compassion, and happiness.
Figure 6. EffectCheck histogram for Thomas’ Interview of Trump when Trump is speaking about being president.
Generally, the lexical emotional impact from Trump’s answers, particularly when speaking about himself, do not evoke compassion as might serve his needs better. Let’s consider the partial answer to explaining his core views and basic philosophy:
“I’ve had great success in everything I’ve done. When you have the most votes of anybody that tells you where the party is. I think the party got lost to a certain extent. For instance, we talk about trade. I believe in free trade, but I really believe in making great deals for the United States.”
A simple addition to this answer:
“I’ve had great success in everything I’ve done, and now I want to share that success and talent with the American people to help make America great again. When you have the most votes of anybody that tells you where the party is. I think the party got lost to a certain extent; that’s okay, we’re going to help the Republican party find its way with us again. For instance, we talk about trade. I believe in free trade, but I really believe in making great deals for the United States. Those great deals are going to benefit union workers, non-union workers, and really all Americans across the country. We have to make America great again, and that’s my focus.”
brings evoked compassion to very high levels as compared to other political discourse.
In another example, Trump responded:
“I like the concept of local education. I want to get rid of Common Core. I think Common Core is a disaster. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a little tentacle left of the Department of Education, like 5 percent, just in terms of local coordination, perhaps.”
This evokes high levels of hostility and depression, and virtually no compassion. A simple extension could raise evoked compassion considerable. Consider this:
“I like the concept of local education. I want to get rid of Common Core. I think Common Core is a disaster. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a little tentacle left of the Department of Education, like 5 percent, just in terms of local coordination, perhaps. You see, I trust the American people more than I trust people in Washington DC to understand what each neighborhood and community needs for their children.”
This now evokes less than typical hostility and depression but high to very high levels of compassion.
It’s of interest to continue monitoring Trump’s and Clinton’s communications for more indications of effective use of emotions and opportunities to improve that use.