Donald Trump and a small group of emerging leaders around the world have been labeled as outliers in the ways that they think and communicate with others. Are they really anomalies, or do they fit into larger political trends? This study adds to existing scholarship by analyzing two important psychological dimensions, analytic thinking and confidence, in 12 large corpora of political texts representing political leaders of various levels in both the United States and other countries as well as 4 corpora of cultural texts. Rather than being anomalous, linguistic analyses find that, over the last century, there have been consistent declines in analytic thinking and rises in confidence in the ways that political leaders communicate with the public.Abstract
From many perspectives, the election of Donald Trump was seen as a departure from long-standing political norms. An analysis of Trump’s word use in the presidential debates and speeches indicated that he was exceptionally informal but at the same time, spoke with a sense of certainty. Indeed, he is lower in analytic thinking and higher in confidence than almost any previous American president. Closer analyses of linguistic trends of presidential language indicate that Trump’s language is consistent with long-term linear trends, demonstrating that he is not as much an outlier as he initially seems. Across multiple corpora from the American presidents, non-US leaders, and legislative bodies spanning decades, there has been a general decline in analytic thinking and a rise in confidence in most political contexts, with the largest and most consistent changes found in the American presidency. The results suggest that certain aspects of the language style of Donald Trump and other recent leaders reflect long-evolving political trends. Implications of the changing nature of popular elections and the role of media are discussed.