Trump's political success was a triumph of style over substance: research

November 8, 2016, University of British Columbia
Credit: University of British Columbia

Style, not substance, accounts for Donald Trump's U.S. Republican presidential nomination, according to a psychological analysis from the University of British Columbia.

Psychology researchers at the university compared Trump's speech style and Twitter usage to that of the other top nine Republican contenders. The real-estate mogul and reality star consistently ranked highest in ratings of grandiosity, "I"-statements, informal language, vocal pitch variation, and use of Twitter.

"Trump's outrageous statements over the course of the campaign led many political pundits to underestimate his chances of success," said supervising author Delroy L. Paulhus, a personality psychology researcher and professor at UBC. "Contrary to what might be expected, grandiosity, simplistic language and rampant Twitter activity were statistical predictors of success in the Republican primaries. Although Trump's bombastic communication style was shocking—even detestable to many viewers—our research suggests that this helped him win the Republican nomination."

Speech segments from Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee were transcribed and analyzed using a computerized text analysis software. The transcriptions were also coded for grandiosity by trained raters, after all personal information and references to the candidate's party were removed. The researchers also conducted an acoustical analysis of the speeches, to determine pitch variability, which tends to promote an image of energy and dynamism. Finally, the researchers examined each candidate's Tweet count in the three months before they announced their candidacy.

"Even in everyday life, the difficulty of fact-checking everything people tell us forces us to rely on how they say it—and we've shown that this holds true even in political elections," said Paulhus. "This phenomenon not only helps explain Donald Trump's political rise, but how questionable political leaders might gain power—even in democracies."

"Explaining Trump via Communication Style: Grandiosity, Informality, and Dynamism" appears today in Personality and Individual Differences. Co-authors are Sara Ahmadian and Sara Azarshahi.

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1 / 5 (2) Nov 09, 2016
Trump won only because he was running against a criminal, and as the results clearly indicate there are at least 60 million morons in this country.
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 09, 2016
The Republican director of the FBI couldn't find anything to charge Hillary with, so no, she's not a criminal. There's quite a bit of evidence suggesting that Trump is a pedophile in addition to being a garden variety rapist, and he's certainly a psychopath who cares only about himself.
5 / 5 (3) Nov 09, 2016
From my discussions with Trump supporters, it seems many backed him based on their mistrust of Clinton and what they perceive as a one-sided establishment, elitist media. All the attempts at shaming and insulting Trump supporters only served to solidify their votes. Maybe we should try engagement next time around?
3 / 5 (2) Nov 09, 2016
You can always count on the resident lefties at Phyorg to find an article somewhere masquerading as something scientific that actually has the sole purpose of demeaning, besmirching or simply outright lying about anyone who's the least bit right of center. They just can't help themselves.
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 10, 2016
I can always count on a jackass to chime in trying to counter the "style over substance" claim about a candidate who talked about the size of his penis and whether certain women were hot enough to grope. Apparently rhugh1066 was stuck on a glacier in Alaska for an entire year and didn't hear the endless stream of filth and empty rhetoric coming from Trump's mouth.

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