The Exception or the Rule: Using Words to Assess Analytic Thinking, Donald Trump, and the American Presidency


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Abstract

The results of the 2016 presidential election left many political scholars perplexed. Why was Donald Trump elected and what was his appeal? Does he represent a new way of thinking or is he merely an extension of trends that have long been in place? The answer to some of these questions may be found in the language of political figures from Trump back to George Washington. The current project focuses on a central dimension of language that reveals the degree to which a person is relying on formal, logical, analytic thinking or more in-the-moment, informal, narrative thinking. Using text analytic methods, it is possible to identify at which point along an analytic-narrative continuum any speech or language sample falls. The analysis of speeches, debates, and various documents demonstrates that Trump stands out from other politicians as being very low in analytic thinking. However, he represents the next step in a trend wherein most Presidents and presidential candidates have been becoming less analytic. Trump may be an anomaly, but he is also a part of a long-developing presidential pattern.

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