Using EffectCheck® to Analyze the Emotional Responses from Candidates at the 2015 Republican Presidential Debate

By November 12, 2015Case Studies

The Republican Party held its fourth presidential debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 9, 2015. Eight candidates participated in the main debate: Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Gov. John Kasich, and Sen. Rand Paul. The transcript of the debate can be found here. EffectCheck® can provide insights into the lexical emotional tone set by each of the candidates.

Sample Size per Candidate

Each of the candidates had approximately “equal time” in that the number of words spoken by each varied from a low of about 1725 (Carson) to a high of about 2300 (Rubio and Kasich). The figure below shows a pie chart with the percentage of overall contribution for each of the candidates.

Figure 1. Pie chart of percentage of words spoken by each candidate.

Overall Lexical Impact per Candidate

The table below shows the overall lexical impact from each candidate as assessed by EffectCheck, compared with hundreds of other examples of political speech. Here are the main observations:

  • With the exception of Ben Carson, the candidates evoked typical levels of anxiety. Mr. Carson evoked lower levels of anxiety.
  • With the exception of Marco Rubio, the candidates evoked low levels of compassion and happiness. Sen. Rubio evoked typical levels of compassion and happiness.
  • With the exception of Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina, the candidates evoked low levels of confidence. Both Sen. Rubio and Ms. Fiorina evoked approximately typical levels of confidence as compared to other political speech.
  • With the exception of Sen. Paul, all candidates evoked less than typical levels of hostility. Sen. Paul evoked slightly higher than typical levels of hostility.

Table 1. Comparison of evoked lexical effects from each candidate. (All charts from

In addition to the difference in evoked levels of compassion and happiness between Sen. Rubio and Ms. Fiorina, note that Sen. Rubio was the only candidate whose evoked level of confidence was higher than the evoked level of depression.


Individual candidates may stand out with respect to specific emotional profiles; however, Sen. Rubio’s language stands alone in several regards. The overall emotional profile from Sen. Rubio’s contributions to the November 9, 2015 Republican Debate shows a clear difference to that of his rivals, emphasizing greater confidence, compassion, and happiness, with lower depression.