President Donald Trump and President Barack Obama may seem like political polar opposites, but their rhetoric has far more in common than you would think, according to a new analysis of their speeches.
Two University of Minnesota professors took Trump’s “more substantial speeches,” defined for the analysis as 500 words or longer, and compared them with a database of presidential speeches that were gathered based on the same guidelines.
Glenn discussed the study on radio Thursday and pointed out that both liberals and conservatives should notice similarities between the two presidents. People on the left get upset if Obama is compared to Trump, while Trump supporters feel the same with respect to Obama.
“’How dare you?’ Both sides, locked into it,” Glenn said.
The professors ran the speeches through Diction, a content analysis computer program that holds 33 dictionaries specializing in political speech. Diction searched for words from the political dictionaries and calculated the percentage that those particular words represented in a typical speech sample.
Obama and Trump share two key similarities that make them distinct from every previous president: more self-referential rhetoric using “I” and “me” as well as high levels of “tenacity,” or calls to action.
“These two have a marked difference from any of the other presidents,” Glenn explained.
While Obama’s speeches were 69 percent more self-referential than the presidential average, Trump’s speeches have been 89 percent more self-referential. Obama and Trump are also the only presidents to surpass the average for tenacious rhetoric by a “substantial” percentage, the researchers said. “Tenacity” was defined by “must,” “need” and other words that are used to connote immediacy.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
GLENN: Hmm. There’s an interesting study out. You know, people — people just cannot see if they are on the left and they despise Donald Trump and they’re worried about him, they cannot see the — the similarities to how we felt about Barack Obama. They just can’t see it.
You bring it up: How dare you. You talk to people — Donald Trump. They love Donald Trump. And you say, “Well, he’s got a lot of the same patterns of Barack Obama.”
“How dare you.” Both sides, locked into it.
There is an analysis that has just been done between Barack Obama and Donald Trump. They took all of their speeches, anything I think over 500 words, and put them in for an analysis. And they ran this through a program called Diction. It contains 33 separate dictionaries, tailored to political speeches. It searches text for words contained in the designated dictionaries, then calculates the number of words from each dictionary that would be present in the typical 500-word sample. So there’s a couple of things.
They found that in contrast to all other presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump are the closest of any of them. That these two have a marked difference from any of the other presidents, and they are neck-and-neck.
Here’s what they found: They have more self-references in their speeches. I, I, me, me. It’s me, it’s me, it’s me. It’s I, I, I, I. It’s me, me, me, me.
Obama’s rhetoric is 69 percent more self-referential than the presidential average — 69 percent. Trump exceeds Obama only by 20 points.
Trump employs 50 percent more first-person pronouns than the second most heavily self-referential president after Obama, and that is Gerald Ford. He is twice as self-referential as the post-war presidential average.
Second, tenacity. This — the system pulls out and files under tenacity. They look for series of words of must, need. Anything that — that has the feeling of absolute certainty.
President Obama, 45 percent more tenacious than the presidential average. Trump’s rhetoric is more tenacious than Obama’s. But they’re the only — the two presidents — only two presidents that actually break out. Everybody else is, we need to talk about these things. We need to do this. The other is, we must act now.
Then there’s one other thing: Both Obama and Trump stand out among all of the other presidents in their language as saying things like nobody knows the system better than me. There’s nobody else that can fix this.
I am — I am uniquely qualified because…
Both Obama and Trump stand out among all other presidents. So for those people who think that Barack Obama was God and that Donald Trump is Satan and you can’t understand how people didn’t see this with Barack Obama, it’s because you liked his policies or thought he was on your side. Half of the country thought he was on the other side.
Half of the country was dismissed by Donald Trump — by Barack Obama. Just dismissed. Mocked. Ridiculed.
I love it when these Teabaggers — when Donald Trump is mocking you and mocking the things that you hold dear, remember that happened over here first. We were feeling that for eight years. And you didn’t listen and didn’t pay attention.
For those of us on the — on the other side of the aisle, let’s not treat people the way we hated being treated ourself.
The real problem here is: We used to look for honesty. That’s what we were looking for. Honesty.
Strength in leadership was way back. Honesty. Then somebody who shared my values. That’s what we were looking for.
Now we’re looking for strength. Be careful on what you wish for. Strength doesn’t come from a president or the Oval Office. Strength comes from its people. Strength comes from the — the character of a country’s people.
A president could launch a war, but it’s the people that are going to win it. A president could do something that would cause just economic chaos, a president could destroy what was the greatest health care system in the world. But a president nor Congress can fix it again.
It’s going to have to come from the people. What we decide to do with our day every day.
That’s — that’s what’s going to save our families. That’s what we get up to do every single day.
There’s a phrase that I read when I was, oh, in my 30s and I was sobering up and I was trying to find answers. And it was, that which you gaze upon, you shall become. What are we gazing upon? What are we spending all of our time and our energy on?
I was a bad dad last night. I’ve had — I think I’m at the top of my stress level. And I’m so tired when I get home. I’ve been getting home at about seven or 8 o’clock at night. And my kids need my attention. And my wife needs attention.
And I put my hand on the doorknob, and I think, “All I want to do is go to bed.” I am so tired. And my family wants my attention and needs my attention. And what makes it, I guess, better, but in some ways worse, that’s all I want to do is give them my attention. I just want the energy to be able to give them my full attention and to be with them.
My son, his voice changed this summer. I just thought like eight months ago, he had the perfect Charlie Brown voice. He always has. He sounds like Charlie Brown, or used to. And I wanted to record him reading some Charlie Brown. And I just thought of it this spring. And I thought, “I’ve got to do it before his voice changes.” His voice changed.
This is my first son. That has thrown me for a loop. It’s not — it’s like his changed. It’s not like talking to my son anymore. My little boy anymore.
I don’t want to miss anymore of their childhood. Last night, I came home. We were so tired. I tried to do what little I could with everything. And then everybody was like, “Brush your teeth. Do this. Do that.”
“I’m not going to argue with you anymore. Get up to bed.”
And I just couldn’t take it. And I snapped.
Is this really what we’re spending our time on? What little time we have, we’re arguing. Get your ass upstairs and brush your damn teeth, or I’ll take the braces off of your teeth myself.
You’ve been sick all day. Your mother has asked you to go to bed. Get your ass in bed.
What little time we have, we’re spending it arguing with each other. I’ll bet you that’s happening in your family as well. And it’s happening in our family — our country. Instead of doing something great, instead of doing something worthwhile, instead of building something that makes people stand back and go, damn, look at those people, we’re wasting all of our time arguing with each other.
You want to talk about North Korea. Good, then let’s talk about North Korea. Let’s talk about the millions that could die and the — and the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, that are being tortured. And definitely the millions that are being starved to death. And we’ve not cared.
What have we done about it? Nothing. And now we — now we’re all so damn convinced that it’s time to go to war. Why? Why? Why?
Because the press has decided we have to pick this up now? Because the president has said something and we can’t go back on his word, we can’t look weak? I don’t care how we look anymore. Can we do the right thing for once? Can we do the right thing because it is the right thing? Not because we have to.
But we’re never going to get there, until those who know they have to brush their teeth. Go upstairs and brush their freaking teeth. And those who have got to put the video game down because you’re not supposed to be playing video games at this time. Put the damn video game down. And we stop wasting what little time we have arguing and we actually come together and try to do something positive with our time.