Analyzing Trump’s speech patterns to explain his success

Back to Article
Back to Article

Analyzing Trump’s speech patterns to explain his success

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






In American democracy, the majority rules. If enough people speak out, they can achieve reform, and the biggest presence in a demographic will always see domestic policy shaped more to their needs. Politicians live to please their constituents; it’s no secret that a public official, be they a lowly representative or the president, caters their platform to the largest possible number of people. They need to stay in office somehow, after all, which is exactly how democracy works. And that’s a beautiful thing, right?

Well, the concept becomes a little concerning when you look at just how easily people can be swayed. After all, the reverse is true just as well: The loudest voice tends to draw the biggest crowd, and enough charisma can attract popular sentiment almost on a subconscious level, beyond all levels of common sense. And we see that dilemma so clearly in one particular presidential candidate: Donald Trump.

A whirlwind of wildly discriminatory and divisive statements, inflammatory insults and ultimately xenophobic views, Donald Trump is a fascinating phenomenon in modern politics. The content of his rhetoric is absurd. A child with basic morals could look at what he says and feel either disgust or incredulity. It’s as if he’s checking off a laundry list of ethnic groups to alienate and offend.

But you absolutely cannot deny the influence that Mr. Trump has had, and continues to have, on public opinion. His popularity amongst loyal supporters has yet to wane, despite even just recently calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country. But why?

One YouTube channel, Nerdwriter, breaks down his pattern of speech in an attempt to explain this. As a guest on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show, Trump is asked whether he believes it is “un-American and wrong to discriminate people based on their religion.” Trump’s answer reflects a variety of his tactics for selling feelings so effectively, even if the ideas behind them are  ridiculous, as the narrator puts it. For starters, his language is very simple: out of a 220 word answer, 95 percent of his words are two syllables or less. This agrees with results from a study by the Boston Globe, which compiled all candidates’ speeches to assess the educational equivalent of how they talk by measure of the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Test. A bit technical, I know, but bear with me. According to the test, Donald Trump speaks at the equivalent of a 4th grade reading level. By comparison, Hilary Clinton speaks at that of an 8th grader, and Bernie Sanders of a 10th grader – both above the average American reading level of 7th grade. Which would you assume is the most approachable rhetoric? The simplest one, right?

Trump also loves his buzz words: He ends his sentences with hard-hitting words like “harm,” “dead,” “injured” and “problem.” He talks in commands, speaks from your point of view and repeats often, almost demanding the listener’s attention. “Look at what happened in Paris,” “if you remember,” “you look at what happened,” etc. All in all, Trump is a master at using subliminally manipulative language. He’s an expert salesman.

In an effort to reach the widest number of people, and offend the least, politicians today boast moderate views and endeavor toward constant political correctness, hyperaware of what they say. Striving to be inclusive of all public interests is respectable, but many politicians come across as wishy washy, insincere or even untrustworthy. Ironically, by toning down their messages, they may offend fewer voters but inspire even less.

In the face of a candidate as divisive and fervent as Trump, their moderateness may seem sane, but also less passionate. People are attracted to confidence, strength and charisma; keep it simple, understandable, and most of all passionate, and people will flock to you. Just look at what Trump supporters say: “he speaks his mind,” “he’s not a politician,” “he’s going to tell us exactly the way it is,” etc. We see so many examples in history of entire populations falling for overly-zealous leaders out of desperation or in times of need: Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Kim Jong-Il and countless more.

What the trend shows is just how willing people are to follow an ideology, no matter how extreme, for the sake of maintaining a national identity. It’s terrifying how ready some people are to give up their morality to rally behind strong leadership, and Trump poses just such a conundrum. You can expect an immense impact on the American political system, and on a population so jaded with convoluted politics, regardless of whether or not he wins. Because Trump might just be the first of many candidates to force feed us their rhetoric, and that’s a scary thought.