July 17, 2015
By David B. Fogel, Ph.D.
Donald Trump announced he was running for president of the United States on June 16, 2015. The transcript of his remarks, which lasted approximately 45 minutes, can be found here. The mainstream media focused on several sound bites from the speech that evoked considerable hostility; however, it’s of interest to examine the speech in its entirety with EffectCheck® to determine the overall emotional effects and specific sections of the speech that were at variance with the overall tone. It’s also of interest to note the unusual opening of Trump’s address, which evoked very low confidence, compassion, or happiness for almost the first quarter of the entire address.
Trump’s announcement is long, measuring over 6000 words. Overall, the speech was constructed as a series of illustrations of where, in Trump’s opinion, America is failing and other countries are succeeding at America’s expense. Rather than having a traditional open, middle, and close, the speech is more a stream of conscious discussion based on notes he had prepared, which concludes with Trump’s vision of making “America great again.”
The media focused much attention on lines such as “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems” and when referring to Mexico, “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us [sic]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
However, when viewed in its entirety, the overall lexical emotional effect on each of the six scales that EffectCheck measures is very close to typical for political speeches. As shown in Figure 1, Trump’s address was only slightly above typical with regard to hostility and perhaps surprisingly below average on confidence, which will be examined more closely below.
By examining the speech in 100-word segments, Figure 2 shows that the flow of evoked hostility was indeed high initially, but then fluctuated and was very low between about the 4500th and 5400th words.
The content of his speech in this later section focused first on Trump’s family relationships and then on his own net worth.
Figure 3 shows that there was no meaningful variation between evoked anxiety, hostility, and depression throughout Trump’s speech. The correlation across these three emotions was very high at all times. Trump apparently did not attempt to differentiate between these emotions.
Figure 4 shows a very atypical construction in terms of the use of evoked confidence in a presidential candidate’s speech. Fully the first one-quarter of Trump’s speech evoked very little confidence. His conversation focused so heavily on the problems that America is facing that it took him about 12 minutes into his 45-minute speech before he started evoking very high levels of confidence.
Figure 5 illustrates that the evoked lexical emotional effects of confidence, compassion, and happiness bounced to and from each extreme during Trump’s address. A similar story applies to his use of anxiety, hostility, and depression.
Rather than establish an emotional theme and build on it, it appears Trump’s strategy was to lay out a series of problems that America is facing and not evoke any generally positive emotions until the listener was begging internally for a resolution. After that, Trump swung the evoked emotions like a pendulum, back and forth, never letting the listener settle in one feeling for too long. This can be a very effective way of maintaining attention as the listener is repeatedly surprised by the emotional effect of the speaker.