Portraits of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

2016 U.S. Presidential Race: Do Convention Speeches Predict the Winner?

After the Republican and Democratic Conventions in July, the 2016 U.S. presidential race is on between Democrat Hillary Clinton, who is making history as the first female presidential nominee from one of the two major political parties, and Republican Donald Trump, the contentious and provocative New York billionaire. The race for the White House this year is undoubtedly one of the most memorable events in the history of American politics, partly because of the stark contrast between the two candidates, from their political and economic agenda to their appeal to voters. Using Nvivo, a text-analysis software, DASIL compared Clinton and Trump’s acceptance speeches at their respective party conventions to further demonstrate these differences.

Main theme and important issues

Word cloud of 30 most frequent words in Donald Trump's speech

30 most frequent words in Donald Trump’s speech

Looking at the 30 most frequent words in Trump’s speech, we can see that the main issues mentioned by the Republican candidate are immigration, national security, and public safety. The most common words in the speech include “violence”, “immigration”, “protect”, “border”, “laws”, “jobs”, and “violence”, highlighting a dark portrait of the current state of America. Trump strongly emphasized that much must be changed in order to fix these issues, and that he, rather than a Democratic leader, will change this grim outcome by restoring law and order.
Word Cloud of 3 most frequent words in Hillary Clinton's speech

30 most frequent words in Hillary Clinton’s speech

Clinton, on the other hand, gave a more optimistic and upbeat speech. While acknowledging the current issues facing America and the work needed to be done, Clinton also highlighted the strengths that the nation brings to overcome these challenges. Some of the most frequent words in her speech are “family”, “people”, “works”, “jobs” and “together”, hinting at some issues that the Democratic presidential candidate wants to tackle. At the same time, these words center around the notion of inclusivity and staying united, which offers stark contrast to Trump’s anti-immigration stance, isolationism, and Americanism.

“We” versus “I”

Using Nvivo, DASIL also compares how often the two presidential candidates used “we” words – such as we, our, ours, and ourselves – versus “I” words – such as I, me, my, mine, and myself in their convention speeches.

Table showing Trump and Clinton's "we" and "I" words

For every time Clinton said “I”, she said “we” 1.83 times, while her Republican opponent said “we” only 1.5 times for each “I”. With a 1.50 “we”-to-“I” ratio, Trump delivered a more self-focused convention speech than his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, whose speech has a “we”-to-“I” ratio of 1.83. The difference in use of “we” versus “I” words between the two candidates reveals much about their speaking styles, personalities, and even chances of winning the election. A Bloomberg Politics study of convention speeches dating back to 1976 finds that the public tend to favor candidates who use more “we” words relative to “I” words. In nine out of 10 elections since 1976, the general election winners achieved a higher “we”-to-”I”-word score compared to his opponent [Bloomberg]

Bar graph showing the number of "we" words per each "me" words for presidential nominees since 1976

Bloomberg points out that “we” words inspire confidence in others and also reflect the speaker’s self-confidence, which is a key quality in good leadership. Clinton’s “we”-to-“I” victory over Trump in her convention speech suggests that she’s in the lead position to win in November. Trump’s speaking style is more personal; furthermore, his I-word usage reveals feelings of insecurity, perhaps due to a lack of political background and experience on political issues.

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