April 4, 2006


Smart Talk and Girly Talk on the Campaign Trail (Richard Morin, April 4, 2006, Washington Post)

Forget the Swift boat ads, the economy or international terrorism. Here's what really may have decided the last presidential election:

President Bush and Vice President Cheney sounded more presidential than their Democratic counterparts. Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) seemed the most depressed or suicidal. And Kerry's running mate, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), sounded the most like a "girly man."

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin collected transcripts of 271 televised interviews, news conferences, town hall meetings and candidate debates conducted in 2004. The speech samples -- more than 400,000 words in all -- were run through a computer text-analysis program. The team included lead author Richard B. Slatcher, a doctoral candidate in psychology, and professor James W. Pennebaker. [...]

Cheney easily sounded the smartest of the four, while Edwards and Bush favored the least sophisticated language patterns, Slatcher and his colleagues report in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Research in Personality. When it came to sounding presidential, both Bush and his running mate scored considerably higher than Kerry or Edwards. Bush was the oldest-sounding candidate. Edwards also was the most likely to use feminine speech patterns and "female" words (Bush was a close second), while Cheney sounded most like a man's man.

The vice president sounded the most honest of the four, and Kerry the least. Kerry's language also was most like that of a depressed person, followed by Edwards. Perhaps that's inevitable; after all, challengers must sound gloomy and doomy about their opponents' records, though in doing so they run clear risks.

"Voters are most favorable toward those candidates who are the most optimistic," Slatcher said.

The Democrats ought to replace the donkey with a bell jar.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 4, 2006 9:36 PM

I knew there was something wrong with Edwards when his main talking points included the importance of clean underwear.

Posted by: EPT at April 4, 2006 11:11 PM

This survey will drive the Democrats nuts to the point it almost makes up for the story Monday about the other University of Texas professor who wants to kill 90 percent of humanity (maybe Slatcher can introduce Dr. Pianka to the suicidal-sounding John F. Kerry).

Posted by: John at April 5, 2006 12:26 AM

Voters are most favorable toward those candidates who are the most optimistic.

Which is why Clinton beat Dole and Reagan beat Carter. Gloomy candidates don't win.

Posted by: Gideon at April 5, 2006 12:35 AM

John F. Kerry served in Vietnam, I'm told.

Posted by: Jayson at April 5, 2006 5:24 AM

Personality wins nearly every time. Look at the president's since the begining of radio/movie news and then tv.

Compare FDR and Truman to Dewey, Eisenhower to Stevenson, JKF to Nixon, LBJ to Goldwater, Reagan to Carter and Mondale, GHWB to Dukakis, Clinton to GHWB and Dole, GWB to Gore and Kerry. The more outgoing and cheerful won every time.

Carter versus Ford can be interpreted either way. Nixon in 1968 and 1972, well it was strange times.

That is why either McCain or Rudy will beat Hillary. Whom would you like to go drinking with?

Posted by: Bob at April 5, 2006 12:43 PM

It's also the candidate perceived to be less intelligent/intellectual every time.

Posted by: oj at April 5, 2006 12:46 PM

Speak for yourself, amigo. I'd much rather go drinking with Hillary just so I could make a pass at her and then, at the instant she's about to let me kiss her, barf all over her chest.

Posted by: Pepe at April 5, 2006 1:08 PM

how are you going to do that, when she will have devoured your head as soon as you get within range ?
she is the human equivalent of a praying mantis.

Posted by: toe at April 5, 2006 2:28 PM

I still see Cheney as the survey described; the grownup in the group. Gonna miss that man ... "big time."

Posted by: Genecis at April 5, 2006 2:58 PM

Between Kerry and Hillary, who do you think will sound more like a girl?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at April 5, 2006 7:49 PM