Case Study: EffectCheck® Analysis of Donald Trump’s Acceptance Speech at the Republican Convention

July 22, 2016

By David B. Fogel, Ph.D.

On July 21, 2016, Donald Trump accepted the Republican party’s nomination for president of the United States. His acceptance speech can be found here. As might be anticipated, the speech was widely praised by conservative media (for example, here) and widely panned by liberal media (for example, here).

An EffectCheck® analysis shows key differentiating uses of emotion throughout his address.

Overview

Figure 1 shows the overall evoked lexical emotional impact from Trump’s speech. As compared to other political speeches it evoked high hostility and depression, but also high confidence. Also important, compared with other speeches that Trump has offered, it evoked compassion at levels that are more typical for political speeches.

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Figure 1. EffectCheck histogram analysis of Trump’s acceptance speech.

Despite being described as “fear-mongering” by some liberal media (for example, here), the speech actually evoked a low level of anxiety. This suggests that liberal media were either reacting to evoked hostility or potentially would offer this description regardless of the emotional content of the message. That said, Figure 2 shows the word cloud for words that evoke anxiety from Trump’s speech.

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Figure 2. EffectCheck word cloud analysis for anxiety from Trump’s acceptance speech

The themes within anxiety certainly can arouse fear, but EffectCheck shows that overall anxiety was used at level that was low relative to other political speeches that have been analyzed.

This is seen more directly in Figure 3, which shows a 100-word moving window highlight the level of evoked anxiety throughout his address. With the exception of two very short outlier intervals, evoked anxiety was generally low and trended lower throughout the speech.

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Figure 3. EffectCheck 100-word moving window analysis on Trump’s acceptance speech with respect to anxiety.

Similarity to Opening of Announcement

As offered in a prior case study (here), when Trump announced that he was running for the presidency, his initial speech offered a unique style of evoking very low levels of confidence for a significant portion of the opening of his address. Figure 4 shows this effect from his initial announcement.

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Figure 4. EffectCheck 100-word moving window analysis on Trump’s announcement of running for the US presidency with respect to lexically evoked confidence.

Figure 5 shows that Trump’s acceptance speech paralleled that formula, again evoking low levels of confidence initially (following an introduction of accepting the nomination), as he offered his view of safety and security failings in the USA.

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Figure 5. EffectCheck 100-word moving window analysis on Trump’s acceptance speech with respect to lexically evoked confidence.

Closer Look at Evoked Compassion without coupled Confidence

Figure 6 overlays evoked compassion on top of evoked confidence. The two emotions are correlated in Trump’s speech, but there are notable times when evoked compassion was high without evoked confidence. These occurred when Trump was empathizing with the victims of crime (such as Sarah Root, early in the speech and again later when addressing the parents of children killed by illegal immigrants, see the paragraph regarding Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden, and Jamiel Shaw).

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Figure 6. Overlaying EffectCheck analysis of evoked compassion and confidence during Trump’s acceptance speech.

Analyzing the Close

Figure 7 shows the final 700 words from Trump’s address. This closing portion generally should finish with high confidence, compassion, and happiness. One potential improvement to the close would have been to increase evoked happiness. For example, inserting the following three lines:

“Together, we will lift ourselves up and get our economy humming. Together, we will build better relationships with our communities. Together, we will ensure that we put the world back on course to peace and prosperity”

after Trump stated “So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m With You, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you” and before he stated “To all Americans tonight, in all our cities and towns, I make this promise: We Will Make America Strong Again. We Will Make America Proud Again. We Will Make America Safe Again. And We Will Make America Great Again. THANK YOU”

would have the effect as shown in Figure 8, evidencing very high levels of evoked confidence, compassion, and happiness.

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Figure 7. EffectCheck analysis of the final 700 words from Trump’s acceptance speech.

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Figure 8. EffectCheck analysis of the final 700 words from Trump’s acceptance speech with the additional language suggested in this case study, which makes evoked confidence, compassion, and happiness go very high into the close.

Summary

Trump’s acceptance speech paralleled the open of his announcement in terms of lexically evoked confidence (that is, low). Overall, his use of evoked compassion was higher than in prior speeches, and notably separate from evoked confidence when addressing the victims of crime perpetrated by illegal immigrants. The close of this speech was properly high in confidence and compassion and low in evoked anxiety, hostility, and depression. It could have benefitted from additional language that would have brought up higher levels of evoked happiness to match the very high levels of evoked confidence and compassion.