Hillary Clinton, no surprise, sounds the most feminine of the candidates on the campaign trail, commonly using phrases like “incredibly grateful” and “open our hearts.” More surprising, the second-most feminine-sounding speaker is Donald Trump, who often talks about “my beautiful family” and “lasting relationships.”
But unlike Clinton, Trump is just as likely to speak in overtly masculine language, especially favoring phrases like “absolutely destroy” and often using insulting words that tend to alienate women (and many men): “moron,” “imbecile” and “loser.”
This is based on 126,362 words in publicly available speeches by the candidates through March 3 and in four debates analyzed by Textio, a company that uses software to evaluate language. Textio ranked the candidates’ language in various areas, including gender associations, references to minorities and the frequency with which they talked about themselves versus talking directly to voters.
Clinton’s language is often about coming together, and she mentions family five times as often as any other candidate. Trump’s language is the most polarized between masculine and feminine, though he has been sounding more feminine over the campaign, perhaps to try to appeal to female voters.
Ted Cruz is the most masculine and aggressive speaker of all, Textio found, and much more masculine than Clinton is feminine. He rarely uses feminine words, favoring “relentless,” “hunt down” and “totally destroy.”
Bernie Sanders’ average language is more masculine than Trump’s, but not as masculine as Marco Rubio’s. Sanders’ speech has been getting more masculine over time.
Software is imperfect at understanding human language because it misses important clues like gestures, tone of voice and facial expressions, said Robin Lakoff, professor emerita of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, who in 1975 published a book, “Language and Woman’s Place,” that led to a variety of research on language and gender. Based on these nonverbal cues, she concluded that Trump was the most feminine speaker of all the candidates, even more than Clinton – he gestures a lot, is very expressive, poses statements as questions and repeatedly explains himself, all of which are commonly feminine, she said.
All the candidates speak in violent language – commonly using words like “destroy,” “fight” and “obliterate” – though the targets of their aggression vary.