Ronald Reagan talked of a prosperous America as a beacon of democracy around the world. And Barack Obama talked about the hope of which he was the living embodiment.
Donald Trump gave us “American carnage.”
-ANDREW ROSENTHAL @ NY Times
The New York Times‘ Andrew Rosenthal and others across the media have commented on the unorthodox tone of Trump’s inaugural address. Many had hoped for a tone of reconciliation after a vicious and often fact-challenged campaign season, but most commentators were struck by the “dark vision” of Trump’s address. EJ Dionne felt “Abraham Lincoln was more upbeat during the middle of the Civil War.” Fellow journalists at NPR were quick to agree.
Reporting on the inauguration speech fell into the Trump-as-deviant narrative that seems to be taking root in these first days of his administration. Trump did indeed employ striking rhetoric. News reports noted that Trump was the first president to use terms like carnage, bleeding and tombstones. This framing became the focus of reporting because the speech fit neatly into the preexisting narrative. This narrative feeds on a steady supply of (often superficial) Trump novelties and eccentricities to shock and surprise. Was his speech as much an anomaly as the candidate?
New data tools give us quick and easy means to look at bigger pictures of tone and language use. Data visualization techniques like wordclouding are simple analytic tools that offer easy to grasp observations. If you want to quickly assess the tone of a speech by counting the frequency of words use, these analytic tools are a snapshot of the verbiage and get at some empirical data on tone.
By way of illustration, here are wordclouds of the Obama and Trump inaugural speeches.
Of course, numbers back up these data-snapshots. We can parse the data out to see the top words used ranked according to frequency (see below).
With this data, we can examine address tone, gauged by word frequency (words used 4 or more times).
The top five words in Obama’s 2009 address: will, can, nation, new, America.
Trump’s top five: will, America, American, people, country. Not too much deviation in tone according to these numbers.
More noteworthy is the number of times words were used. Obama used the words “will” and “can” 17 and 13 times respectively. Trump used “will” and “America” 43 and 19 times. We also see some notable differences that might make for a basis of analysis. Where “women” has mention 4 times in Obama’s speech, wealth is in that position in Trump’s.
*credit to wordclouds.com‘s generator
Obama Inauguration Speech words by frequency of use:
Trump Inauguration Speech words by frequency of use: