Text Mining Using Voyant Tools – A Comparison of Barack Obama & Donald Trump’s Respective Inauguration Speeches

So a couple of years ago I was introduced to Voyant Tools, and it was then that I splashed around in it in order to simply get a feel for text mining. Today, however, I dove right into it. I figured a fun way to really get a diversified experience out of the software would be to text mine two separate things and compare them. So then raises the question, what would be a solid set of texts to compare? You guessed it, I went ahead and plugged in former President Barack Obama’s and current “President” Donald Trump’s inauguration speeches to see the difference between their directions as newly elected presidents. The results I came across were very interesting, yet not entirely surprising all at the same time.

To preface the impending conversation, we all know how Donald Trump’s campaigning for the 2016 election went versus Barack Obama’s campaigning for the 2008 election. So the speeches they gave at their respective inauguration ceremonies really echoed what they were preaching throughout their campaigns. To start off with some simple numbers, Trump’s speech ended up being a total of roughly 1,434 words, containing 542 unique word forms. Unique words forms are basically different words. So words such as “the” are only counted once. Meanwhile, Obama’s speech reached a staggering 2,439 words, 910 unique words forms! That is almost double the length of Trump’s speech. Even their average words per second were quite different from Obama’s average being 21.6 and Trump’s only being 16.5. This could lead to a lot of sociological theories on why these speeches needed to be so different, but we’ll get to that later.

These word counts were just the tip of the iceberg. Next, we’re going to look at the Cirrus feature in order to receive a visual of what words were emphasized more in each of their speeches (visual provided below). Right off the bat, we notice that Obama (left) had a much wider range of vocabulary, which clearly shows why his unique word count was so high. From this image, you can understand how Obama was really emphasizing the idea of a new America in his speech. He used phrases such as “new,” “common,” “world,” “generation,” “peace,” and “spirit.” As for Trump (right), he kept his speech rather simple and drove the very nationalistic nail in the ground. Notice he used phrases such as “America,” “American,” “country,” “wealth,” “power,” “allegiance,” “fight,” “action,” and “destiny.”

Obama went about his campaign by attempting to give volume to the voices who weren’t heard, and we can see that in his diverse choice of words and the direction his speech was going in. Meanwhile, Trump preached much hatred toward foreigners. He boasted about the nationalism of American citizens and how he would get them jobs. He claimed he’d grant them some power through himself as a vessel, and these points all come through in his points during his speech.

Next up, I decided to dig (or should I say “mine”) a little deeper into the context of these repeated words. This led me to the very convenient Knots tool. This tool took those repeated words and phrases and provided their context. So I got to see where and how these words were used and where they overlapped. For the sake of comparison, I looked specifically at their use of the word “America.” When it came to Obama’s speech (left), he always used the term America when discussing creating a newer, more ambitious, and more equal era for the United States. It was very closely associated with his other commonly used phrase, “new.” Trump, however, repeatedly used the term America when referring to reclaiming American power and greatness. More specifically how American’s will come first before immigrants, and how it will prosper because of it.

The last discovery I’ll share with you guys is quite a hilarious one. So Voyant Tools features a messaging software called Veliza, it’s where you can chat with a bot regarding your uploaded text. You can also click a from text button that pulls a sentence from your uploaded text and responds to it accordingly. Veliza is a sister program to the much wider known Eliza, which was an AI software developed by the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory back in the 1960’s. It basically would simulate a conversation using basic text patterns in order to create the illusion that it is communicating with you. However, the conversations are obviously very shallow since the software isn’t a sentient being. So, I went ahead and played with Veliza using lines from the speeches and well, it was really funny! Why? Well because the sentences pulled from Trump’s speech (right) were simplistic enough that Veliza was able to simulate a realistic conversation from what she was given! Meanwhile, Obama’s speech (middle) was too complex for Veliza to formulate a realistic response.

Overall, I had a very intriguing and pleasant experience text mining with Voyant Tools! It was incredibly user-friendly and I would recommend it to any aspiring digital humanists out there! Also, text mining as a whole is super fun so I would also suggest taking random works you like and plugging them in. There are loads of discoveries to be made out there. Physical texts are just what’s on the surface, using tools like this really resonates with the heart of DH. You just have to dive in!

2 thoughts on “Text Mining Using Voyant Tools – A Comparison of Barack Obama & Donald Trump’s Respective Inauguration Speeches

  1. Raven Gomez

    Your experience with Voyant shows! I loved the idea of comparing these two speeches and using text-mining as a different perspective to demonstrate the difference in how words can be utilized. I’d love to see a future debate between Trump and Veliza!

  2. Farah Zahra

    This is great Anthony! I love the part (charts) where you you put the repeated words and phrases in context. (and the conversation with Veliza is indeed hilarious).

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