The conventions are behind us and both the Clinton and Trump campaigns are now entering the final hard fight toward the finish line in November. A lot was made about the speeches each party nominee for president gave at their respective conventions. How long was each speech? What policies were described? What plans were sketched out? What attacks were made? These were some of the many questions reporters and pundits alike asked in the days following each convention.
One thing is very clear though, language and word choice are both very important features. We used network analysis to take a look at both of this year’s presidential nominee convention speeches, along with the nominee speeches from the preceding three nominating conventions, to examine the frequency of word usage and to investigate common patterns of word use between candidates in the same party and across party lines as well.
Most Frequently Used Words in Nomination Speeches, (2004 – 2016)
What is most readily apparent when looking at the words used most frequently by each party nominee over the last four election cycles is that the vast majority of the words are used by both parties. The blue dots indicate words used by Democrats more frequently and red dots are words used by Republicans more frequently. However, the long line of words down the center of the image show that party nominees tend to use the same words in all likelihood because they are talking about the same macro level issues, albeit in different ways aligning to their party’s ideology.
In addition to wanting to see how frequently words are used in common or specifically by a single candidate, we also wanted to look at word usage in the context of the 2016 election. A lot has been made about how each candidate, in their own way, is somewhat more distant from their party base or major voting blocks than in the past. Both Clinton and Trump have very high unfavorable ratings, maybe the highest in history, and neither party electorate is considered to be “fired up and ready to go” for their nominees. We wanted to take a look at the words used most frequently by both Clinton and Trump in their convention speeches to see how far either candidate may have diverged from their traditional party positions.
Words Used in the Clinton and Trump Nomination Speeches
As the diagram shows, both Clinton and Trump still use a lot of words in common, but each candidate has a rather sizable network of words they used that were not in common with the other candidate. Focusing on Trump for a moment, we can see that despite concerns that his views and statements are not always aligned with traditional Republican values, the evidence is slightly more mixed. Trump did use a fairly large number of words used by Republican presidential nominees, as well as some used by Democratic candidates in the past. While Trump used a large number of words and phrases used by candidates in the past, he used more words uniquely his own than the nominees in the previous three election cycles. This in line with what some pundits have asserted about Trump being a unique candidate with views outside party orthodoxy.
Looking more closely at the unique words Clinton and Trump used most frequently in their convention speeches, we can also see differing approaches to the same campaign issues. While this is far from a rigorous linguistic analysis, some words are suggestive of the two candidate’s approaches. For example, Clinton’s speech regularly used words such as children, together, families, good, better, and others. These words support some views after her speech that she presented a positive picture of the country and the election. Trump on the other hand followed a campaign strategy of presenting big issues facing the country that he attributes to failed, often Democratic, policies. Trump used words such as violence, terror, and law, quite frequently painting a picture of dire circumstances in the world around us. However, he also used words such as protect, love, and great, suggesting a positive plan to address these issues.
Clinton and Trump Unique Word Usage
One thing is for sure, there will be many more words used in the course of this election and these words can tell us a great deal about a candidate’s platform, alignment with party values, and views on the issues facing the country and how to solve them.