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Politicians should ‘keep it simple’ like Trump, study suggests

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump’s language could be understood by children aged nine to 10.

Donald Trump’s language was significantly simpler and consisted of fewer complex words than other candidates during his presidential campaign, a study has found.

The research examined 10 interviews and debates during the 2016 campaign.

Rhetorical and linguistic researcher Orly Kayam found Mr Trump’s language could be fully understood by children aged nine and 10.

However, Hillary Clinton’s communications – the most complex of the candidates – were more suitable for 14 to 15-year-olds.

Every aspect of Mr Trump’s speech was simpler than other candidates, in terms of sentence length, the use of less complex words, fewer syllables, shorter words and overall readability.

This “rhetorical strategy” could have made his speech more digestible and easier to understand for audiences.

Dr Kayam, from the Department of Education at Wingate Academic College in Israel, said: “In the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump not only showed that simplifying a message can appeal to a wider base of individuals, but that simplicity is an effective rhetorical tool.

“That his speech is more digestible to audiences is one element to his success; the other is, of course, that this rhetoric supported a growing sense of anti-intellectualism, anti-establishment and anti-political discourse that he did so well at marshalling among his supporters.

“The big lesson people should take from Trump’s victory is not to speak like a politician or scholar.

“The masses will always prefer a level of speech that sounds natural, as they speak with their friends when they discuss politics or daily matters.”

The results of the study also differentiate Mr Trump’s language from previous US presidents.

Barack Obama’s language and communications were levelled at ages 16-17, while George Washington and Abraham Lincoln used language that required a college or university reading level.

Dr Kayam said her study concluded that Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton were good communicators in conveying a strong sense of fear.

However, they were less effective when it came to reaching beyond their traditional bases.

“Clinton made everyone afraid of Trump; Trump made everyone afraid of things that were going to happen if he was not elected,” she said.

“But whereas both were effective when it came to negative emotions, neither managed to evoke a compelling vision for the future.”

The study is published in the journal Political Studies Review, edited by the universities of Bath and Birmingham.

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