“America” Clinton meets “Disaster” Trump in Las Vegas
The third and final presidential debate of 2016 ended up being very much about words. Nasty. Hombre. Bigly. As with so much of the media coverage in this campaign, the focus has been on Donald Trump, which is both a mistake and a disservice to the voters. Hillary Clinton uses words too. In fact, she uses quite a few more of them.
As I did after the second debate, I ran a copy of the third debate transcript through word count software and did some analysis. Based on a few questions I got last time around (thank you, readers!), I cleaned up this dataset a bit more carefully. For example, I combined singulars with their plurals (for example, “thing” and “things” counted as a single word) as well as verb tenses.
In the third debate, Clinton said about 300 more words in total than Trump. However, she used 1,029 different words, compared to his 739. That’s a nearly 38 percent larger vocabulary.
In identifying the top ten words for each candidate, I removed auxiliary verbs, such as “going” and “will.” The two candidates, I discovered, shared six words in their top ten. The ones unique to each candidate are notable.
Greater differences emerged when I counted up the top five words each candidate used that are longer than two syllables. Clinton’s top big word was “America,” which she said 31 times while Trump had a tie with ten each for “disaster” and “amendment.” (In all but one case, he was referring to the second amendment.) Clinton used her top five big words a total of 84 times; Trump used his a total of 44 times.
Next I went from big words to the word “big.” (Last time, I learned all about the candidates’ “things.”) It is perhaps worth noting Trump only used the word “huge” twice in the third debate. Clinton never used it at all.
But really, the presidential election is all about the voters, right? How often did they talk about us?
When the data showed Trump had said the name of the Iraqi city Mosul 17 times — more than twice as often as he mentioned America or Americans — I had to double check. Yes, it was correct. Of all the places in the world he talked about, it’s the one he mentioned most in the third debate.
So I took a closer look at all the place names Clinton and Trump mentioned. Each said the names of a total of 29 cities, states, countries, or planets. Fifteen of them, mostly countries, were said by both candidates, such as Syria, Russia, Mexico, China and Saudi Arabia. Both gave a nod to New York and D.C., but beyond that their list of state and city names were very different. (Cities are noted in italics.)
If we’ve learned anything in the 2016 electoral season, it is that words matter. They are the delivery mechanism for the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals, and they offer insight into who they will be as leaders. When you choose your candidate, remember that you’re choosing the words you and the rest of the world will be listening to for the next four years.