Can Text Analytics Shed Light On Trump's Appeal?

From tacit to more explicit insights, text analytics helps answer the why’s in voting

Because of the interest in yesterday’s post I decided to continue on the topics of politics today.  As a marketing researcher and data scientist though I found yesterday’s analysis a bit more interesting. Not because of the findings per se, but because we were able to use text analytics to accurately predict real attitudes and behavior by not just ‘reading between the lines’ but extrapolating a relationship between seemingly non related attitudes and opinions, which of course are related and predictive when you look more closely.

Of course text analytics can be interesting when used on more explicit data as well. So today I’ll take a look at two more open ended comment questions two different surveys.

In case you're wondering, the benefit of a text answer rather than asking several structured survey questions with rating scales is that unaided text questions give a much truer measure of what issues are actually important to a respondent. Rating scale questions force respondents to have an opinion on issues even when there is none, and thus structured survey questions (even the popular ones like Net Promoter Score) are usually far less effective in predicting actual behavior than text data in our experience.


Reason for Political Affiliation

Immediately after the self-description exercise in yesterday’s analysis we obviously needed to ask what the respondents political affiliation was (so that we could understand what relationship, if any, there is between how we view ourselves and political affiliation).

Respondents were able to designate which party if any they were affiliated with, whether they considered themselves Independent, Tea Party, Green, or something else, and why?



The ability to get a good quantitative relative measure to a why question is something unique to text analytics. Perhaps surprisingly there were rather few mentions of specific campaign issues. Instead the tendency was to use far more general reasons to explain why one votes a certain way.

While Republicans and Democrats are equally unlikely to mention “Conservatism’ and “Liberalism” when describing themselves (from yesterday's post), Republicans are about twice as likely to say they are affiliated with the Republican party because of their “Conservative” values (11% VS 5% “liberal” for Democrats).

Democrats say they vote the way they do because the Democratic party is “For the People”, “Cares about the Poor” and “the Middle [and] working class”.

Republicans on the other hand say they vote Republican because of “values” especially the belief that “you have to work for what you get”. Many also mention “God” and/or their “Christian” Faith as the reason. The desire for smaller/less government and greater Military/Defense spending are also significant reasons for Republicans.

Of course we could have probed deeper in the OE comments with a second question if we had wanted to. Still it is telling that specific issues like Healthcare, Education, Gay Rights and Taxes are less top-of-mind among voters than these more general attitudes about which party is right for them.

Describe Your Ideal President

As mentioned earlier we are looking toward social media to understand and build models. Therefore, we also recently asked a separate sample of n=1000 Americans, all who are active on Twitter, what qualities they felt the President of the United States (POTUS) should have.


The chart above is divided by those who said they tend to vote or at least typically skew toward that respective party.

The findings do help explain the current political climate a bit. Both Democrats and Republicans were most likely to mention “honesty” as a quality they look for, perhaps indicating a greater frustration with politics in general. The idea of “honesty” though is more important to voters who skew toward the GOP.

Those who favor the Democratic party are significantly more likely to value traits like Intelligence, Compassion/Empathy, skill, educational attainment of the candidate and open-mindedness.

Those who lean Republican however are significantly more likely to value a candidate who is perceived both as a strong leader in general, but also more specifically is strongly for America. Rather than educational attainment, softer more tacit skills are valued by this group, for instance Republican voters put greater emphasis on experience and “know how”. Not surprisingly, based on yesterday’s data on how voters view themselves, Republican voters also value Family values and Christian faith in their ideal POTUS.

Research has shown that people prefer leaders similar to themselves. Looking back to some of the self descriptions in yesterday's data we definitely see a few similarities in the above...

Thanks for all the feedback on yesterday’s post. Please join me week after next when I plan on sharing some more interesting survey findings not related to politics, but of course to text analytics.



Tom H.C. Anderson | @TomHCanderson @OdinText

Tom H.C. Anderson

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[NOTE: Tom H. C. Anderson is Founder of Next Generation Text Analytics software firm OdinText Inc. Click here for more Text Analytics Tips ]