When it comes to language, it turns out that conservatives and liberals are more alike than you might think. The intrepid Bloggr team delved into the unfiltered political maelstrom on Reddit to get a look at how the Trump and Clinton subreddit communities write when they discuss the 2016 U.S. presidential election online. We used the Bloggr app’s powerful algorithms and new political correctness checks to find out not only how many spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors each camp made but also how often the software flagged their language as politically incorrect.
In 2015, we took a lighthearted look at the presidential primaries, ranking the leading candidates by how well their supporters wrote about them on the candidates’ official Facebook pages. Now that Clinton and Trump have been officially nominated by their respective parties, we decided to peer into a less moderated community where the members, not the campaigns, direct the conversation. The differences were stark. For one thing, Redditors write significantly better than Facebook users. On Facebook, Hillary Clinton’s supporters made 6.3 errors per 100 words; Trump’s were twice as error-prone at 12.6. By contrast, Clinton’s Reddit supporters made just 1.82 errors per 100 words with Trump’s following close behind at 2.10.
In an unfiltered setting, Trump supporters weren’t daunted by having to add a dollar to the virtual swear jar. They used profanity 135% more often than Clinton’s supporters. Bloggr’s soon-to-be-released political correctness checks for people who want to make their writing more inclusive also got a workout in r/The_Donald. These checks analyze text for language that may be considered sexist, racist, ableist, or non-inclusive in other ways. Trump’s supporters used politically incorrect terms 88% more often than Clinton’s.
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Trump’s and Clinton’s Reddit Supporters Are More Alike Than Different
As we analyzed the data, one surprising discovery emerged—Trump and Clinton supporters share much in common. Not only do both sides write well, but they also care about similar issues. Foreign policy ranked as the number one topic for the Clinton subreddit and came in at number two for Trump. Both sides frequently asked the question “Who’s supporting him/her?” and both thought that the other candidate could bring about “America’s demise.” Clinton supporters see Trump’s campaign as “shameful” and “offensive,” while Trump supporters believe Clinton to be “crooked” and “corrupt.”
Trump supporters were unique in one aspect: they’ve created their own lingo. “Cuck-” was an oft-used prefix (Cuckington Post, Cuckbook, CuckKaine). MAGA (an acronym for Trump’s ubiquitous “Make America Great Again” slogan) was the fourth most commonly repeated bit of jargon. Even Pokemon played a role. Coming in third was Trigglypuff, a play on the slumber-inducing Pokemon, Jigglypuff, and the word “trigger,” used in the context of something with the potential to cause anxiety. (Example: “She should pick Trigglypuff as running mate. Quality attracts quality.”)
Commonly Confused Words
Redditors stumbled on some common English language mistakes, mixing up words like then and than and using the wrong form of too or to. They struggled with frequently confused compound words like everyday/every day and anymore/any more. The Bloggr blog could help them (or anyone else) amp up their writing skills. Here are just a few recommendations:
Although our study is a playful take on the language people use in discussion forums like Reddit, written communication skills will always be essential to how we understand each other in the online world. Clear communication is even more important when the political stakes are high, as they are in an election year. By keeping their writing mistakes to a minimum, Redditors seem to be on the right track.