It’s been a big month in politics, with back-to-back Republican and Democratic national conventions making both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the official nominees for their respective parties.
We have been tracking the primary candidates’ communication styles throughout the election as Clinton has attempted to solidify her story and Trump has overturned every expectation for political speech, and we were eager to find out how these months of buildup would come to a head at the conventions.
But the presidential candidates weren’t the only ones in the spotlight at the conventions. The two vice presidential candidates, the candidates’ spouses, and their daughters also went head to head.
Both parties will spend the next few months attempting to prove their candidate is the best choice for our next president. But which of the key players are already communicating like presidential leaders?
We used our proprietary communication analytics platform to find out, comparing the GOP speakers’ convention addresses to their Democratic counterparts’. We measured each speech on the five most important characteristics of political communication: Clarity, Engagement, Optimism, Persuasion, and Trust.
Here’s what we discovered:
The Candidates: In Presidential Communication, a Decisive Victory for Clinton
The stars of the show, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump wrapped up the conventions by formally accepting their nominations.
In every metric but optimism, Clinton’s address was stronger than the GOP nominee’s. She engaged the audience by including them in her fight, and drew clear distinctions between herself and her opponent:
“So don’t let anyone tell you that our country is weak. We’re not. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes. We do. And most of all, don’t believe anyone who says: ‘I alone can fix it.’ Those were actually Donald Trump’s words in Cleveland. And they should set off alarm bells for all of us. Really? I alone can fix it? Isn’t he forgetting? Troops on the front lines. Police officers and fire fighters who run toward danger. Doctors and nurses who care for us. Teachers who change lives. Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem. Mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe. He’s forgetting every last one of us. Americans don’t say: ‘I alone can fix it.’ We say: ‘We’ll fix it together.’”
Trump’s high optimism score was initially surprising, considering the dark picture the GOP has painted of America’s current situation. But we measure optimism not only based on positivity, but on positivity about the future, which Trump demonstrates in spades:
“When I am President, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally. Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America? Any other child.”
While Trump’s language about the present situation is often dark, his rhetoric also offers a broader message of hope for the future, that American will be great again with him in the oval office.
What’s most notable about Trump’s score, however, is his sharp decline in trustworthiness.
Throughout the campaign, the GOP nominee’s communication has been 1.3x as trustworthy as the average political communication. But in his acceptance speech, Trump’s trustworthy language dropped by 73.7 percent relative to his pre-RNC language.
This nosedive was driven in part by a 50.0 percent decrease in language that offers detailed insights into his platform and plans. Throughout the speech, Trump offered his overarching ideal, but stayed quiet on the tactics he plans to use, or the practical implications of his goals.
“My plan will begin with safety at home, which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism. There can be no prosperity without law and order.”
Clinton, on the other hand, supported her ideals with tactics:
“I believe that our economy isn’t working the way it should because our democracy isn’t working the way it should. That’s why we need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And we’ll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!”
“Studies have shown that honest communicators can more easily dive into the nuances of their messages — explaining not only what will happen, but how it will happen, and what won’t happen,” says Quantified Communications CEO Noah Zandan.
While Clinton is clearly comfortable diving into the details, Trump’s generality led his trustworthiness score to plummet.
The VPs: Tim Kaine Leads in 4 of the 5 Key Metrics
Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, Trump and Clinton’s running mates, respectively, introduced themselves at the conventions as candidates for the Vice Presidency.
The GOP VP hopeful’s address was 12.2% more optimistic than Kaine’s.
Again, despite the gloom and doom the GOP preaches about the country today, Pence’s use of positive, future-looking language supported the GOP’s message that, under Trump’s leadership, America will become great again.
“Under Donald Trump, our deals will be smarter, our soldiers will have what they need and our veterans will have what they earned. We will secure our borders, protect our nation. In all this, we will be more serious. And when we do, this nation will start winning again.”
But in every other critical measure, Pence’s address fell flat.
Though the GOP Vice Presidential candidate came across as nearly twice as trustworthy as Donald Trump, he still fell short of his Democratic counterpart by 33.2%.
Kaine’s address was particularly strong in engagement and clarity, drawing a direct path through is address, using plenty of pronouns, active verbs, and emotional language to help the audience follow his message and their involvement in it:
“Hey, last week, last week in Cleveland we heard a lot about trust. So let’s talk about trust. Let’s talk about trust. I want to tell you why I trust Hillary Clinton. First, she’s consistent. She has battled to put kids and families first since she was a teenager. In good times and bad. In victory and defeat. In and out of office. […] Hey, can I offer you a little tip? When you want to know something about the character of somebody in public life, look to see if they have a passion that began long before they were in office, and that they have consistently held it throughout their career.”
The First Spouses: Melania Trump Comes Out Ahead, Except In Originality
Melania Trump and Bill Clinton each offered glowing speeches about their spouses — as politicians and as human beings.
Both addresses told clear, engaging stories about the candidates.
Clinton shone especially in discussing his early relationship with Hillary Rodham:
“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl. The first time I saw her, we were, appropriately enough, in a class on political and civil rights. She had thick blond hair, big glasses. Wore no makeup. And she exuded this strength of self-possession I found magnetic. After the class, I followed her out, intending to introduce myself. I got close enough to touch her back, but I couldn’t do it. Somehow, I knew this would not be just another tap on the shoulder, that I might be starting something I couldn’t stop.”
Both he and Melania Trump consistently used this highly vivid and emotional language to discuss the candidates’ many accomplishments and initiatives, so the audience can’t help but visualize the story along with them.
However, in every other metric, Melania Trump came out ahead.
She far outpaced her Democratic counterpart in terms of optimism and trustworthy language — making up for her husband’s nosedive in that category.
It’s again notable that the GOP speechwriters (or Melania, depending on who you believe wrote the speech) focused on communicating optimism:
“Like no one else, I have seen the talent, the energy, the tenacity, the resourceful mind and the simple goodness of heart that God gave Donald Trump. Now is the time to use those gifts as never before, for purposes far greater than ever before. And he will do this better than anyone else can… and it won’t even be close.”
Her effervescent praise for her husband demonstrates her confidence in his abilities underscores Pence’s bright outlook for a Trump presidency.
The First Daughters: Chelsea Clinton’s Speech More Trustworthy than All the Others
Daughters Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton introduced the candidates before their acceptance addresses, and they must have made their parents proud.
Both women gave clear, optimistic speeches, with Ms. Trump trailing Ms. Clinton by less than 10 percent in both metrics.
Both addresses were also highly persuasive, with the GOP First Daughter’s slightly more so. Ivanka Trump’s introduction of her father blended emotional and logical language to appeal to her audience — often combining both nearly in the same breath:
“Women represent 46 percent of the total U.S. labor force, and 40 percent of American households have female primary breadwinners. In 2014, women made 83 cents for every dollar made by a man. Single women without children earn 94 cents for each dollar earned by a man, whereas married mothers made only 77 cents. As researchers have noted, gender is no longer the factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy in this country, motherhood is. […]
“As a mother myself, of three young children, I know how hard it is to work while raising a family. And I also know that I’m far more fortunate than most. American families need relief. Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties, they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”
However, in her use of engaging and trustworthy language, Chelsea Clinton took the spotlight from her GOP counterpart and, arguably, from her parents too.
Scoring 1.4x as high as the average campaign communication and 3.0x as high as Donald Trump, Ms. Clinton’s address was the most trustworthy of the eight we measured.
“I know my kids are little young, but I’m already trying to instill those same values in them. There’s something else that my mother taught me: public service is about service. And as her daughter, I’ve had a special window into how she serves. I’ve seen her holding the hands of mothers worried about how they will feed their kids, worried about how they will get them the healthcare they need. My mother promised to do everything she could to help. I have seen her right after those conversations getting straight to work. Figuring out what she could do, who she could call. How fast she could get results. She always feels like there isn’t a moment to lose because she knows that for that mother, for that family, there isn’t.”
Her use of personal language indicating her accountability for her message, and detailed insights into her mother’s character, made Chelsea Clinton’s introduction of the Democratic nominee ring more trustworthy than the others.
This particularly contentious race is far from over, and we wouldn’t presume to predict the outcome. But we can tell you that, in terms of its effective political communication, the Democratic Party is currently in the lead. Will the GOP make a comeback? You can bet we’ll be tracking.
To find out how QC can use our communication analytics platform to help your organization’s leadership deliver best-in-class communications, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.