Trump’s success was victory of style over substance : UBC study

According to a psychological analysis from the university of British Columbia style and not substance resulted in Donald trump’s US Republican presidential nomination.

When comparing Trump’s speech style and Twitter usage to that of the other top nine republican contenders, Psychology researchers at the university came to an interesting conclusion. The real estate mogul and reality star regularly ranked highest in ratings of grandiosity, “I”-statements, informal language, vocal pitch variation and the use of Twitter.


Delroy L. Paulhus (Photo courtesy of: UBC)

“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 style helped him win the Republican nomination.”

Speech segments from the nine contenders were transcribed and analyzed using a computerized text analysis software. Trained raters also coded the transcriptions for grandiosity after removing all personal information and references to the candidate’s party. In addition, the researchers also carried out an acoustical analysis of the speeches to determine pitch variability, usually promoting an image of dynamism and energy. Finally, they examined each candidate’s Tweet count in the three months leading up to the announcement of their candidacy.

Paulhus said the difficulty of fact-checking everything people tell us may lead us to rely on how they say it. “We’ve shown that this holds true even in political elections.” He further added that this phenomenon not only helps explain how Donald trump gained power but also how questionable political leaders might rise to 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.