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Examining long-term trends in politics and culture through language of political leaders and cultural institutions

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Kayla N. Jordan
  • Joanna Sterling
  • James W. Pennebaker
  • Ryan L. Boyd
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>26/02/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)3476-3481
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date11/02/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


From many perspectives, the election of Donald Trump was seen as a departure from long-standing political norms. An analysis of Trump’s word use in the presidential debates and speeches indicated that he was exceptionally informal but at the same time, spoke with a sense of certainty. Indeed, he is lower in analytic thinking and higher in confidence than almost any previous American president. Closer analyses of linguistic trends of presidential language indicate that Trump’s language is consistent with long-term linear trends, demonstrating that he is not as much an outlier as he initially seems. Across multiple corpora from the American presidents, non-US leaders, and legislative bodies spanning decades, there has been a general decline in analytic thinking and a rise in confidence in most political contexts, with the largest and most consistent changes found in the American presidency. The results suggest that certain aspects of the language style of Donald Trump and other recent leaders reflect long-evolving political trends. Implications of the changing nature of popular elections and the role of media are discussed.