Angry, inflammatory rhetoric is the bread and butter of Donald Trump’s speeches, which are full of language that’s arguably less presidential than any presidential nominee in recent history.
Many Republicans have expressed concern that Trump’s language, particularly when it is necessary to racial issues, is damaging the party. But new research suggests that Trump’s emotionally-charged language may be precisely what constructs his supporters find him as worthy of the White House.
The Ohio State University study, which is slated for publication in September in the publication Presidential Studies Quarterly, finds that emotional appeals makes a candidate appear more presidential and trustworthy to the public — but merely during times of economic hardship and uncertainty.
In times of economic stability, on the other hand, voters prefer successful candidates to exercise restraint in their language, David Clementson, a Ph.D. nominee at the university and the study’s leading author, told The Huffington Post.
“My study indicated that if you’re speaking to the times, you’ll be seen as more trustworthy, ” he told. “If “youre using” low-intensity language in stable circumstances, you’re more trustworthy. Conversely, if you use high-intensity language in exigent circumstances, you’re more trustworthy.”
If you’re speaking to the times, you’ll be seen as more trustworthy.” David Clementson, Ph.D. nominee at Ohio State University
The findings seem to shed light on the rise of not only Donald Trump — who has depicted advocates with insults, hateful words and emotional appeals to “make America great again” — but also Bernie Sanders, who invokes fired-up language to rally his supporters around issues including racial and income inequality.
“Even though Donald Trump is on one extreme partisan end of the spectrum and Bernie Sanders is on the opposite, there are a lot of similarities with those two appearing to gain momentum, ” Clementson told. “They’re on these opposite ends of ideology, but they’re both gaining momentum use high-intensity language that reflects the feelings of voters.”
So where does this all leave Hillary Clinton? Stuck in a double bind, according to Clementson. Clinton’s challenge is that while people want emotionally-charged language, research has shown that people do not appear favorably upon the use of this sort of language when it’s coming from a woman.
“There’s this unfair double bind for female speakers, ” he told, “in which they are not granted the same latitude of acceptance[ as male speakers ]. “
For the study, which was conducted during the 2012 election, Clementson and his colleagues recruited 300 students of various political persuasions and affiliations from the University of Miami.
Half of the students read about an economic scenario designed to inspire anxiety( being told that they’d struggle to get employment after graduating) while the other half read an economic situation designed to inspire optimism( being told that students were getting tasks after college and the government was forgiving student loans ).
Then, the students read an excerpt from a speech of a fictional presidential nominee, which featured either high-intensity or low-intensity language. They were asked afterwards to rate their perceptions of presidential candidates in several areas, including trustworthiness and presidentiality.
The students who read the negative economic scenario tended to rate presidential candidates with the high-intensity language as being more presidential and trustworthy, while the students who read the positive scenario tended to rate the candidates who utilized low-intensity language to be more presidential and trustworthy.
It constructs sense that we might perceive candidates who speak to our emotional state as being more trustworthy, but why high-intensity language increases perceptions of how presidential a person seems is less clear.
As Clementson explains, “presidentiality” is an important but loosely defined trait that consists of being viewed as dignified, refined and competent — “embodying the trappings of being in the White House.”
But it seems counterintuitive: Don’t candidates who use measured, deliberate language seem more “presidential? ” Not in times of economic hardship and social upheaval, when we expect nominees to act as a mirror to our own concerns.
The researchers concluded that when we’re impression fearful and uncertain about the future, we’re more receptive to intense, emotional language that acknowledges and reflects those feelings.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S .
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