Trump vs. Biden: Analyzing the Language of America's Presidential Candidates

Last update: 7/11/2024

Trump vs. Biden: Analyzing the Language of America's Presidential Candidates Header

The battle of words between Donald Trump and Joe Biden has never been genial. But their political firepower has only intensified since they met at the polls in 2020 — an election whose results Trump disputed, resulting in his impeachment for issuing “false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people.” Since then, Biden has endured four years of intense public scrutiny, and Trump’s words and actions have been investigated by Congress, the FBI and the criminal court. 

Whoever’s words resonate with you, speeches and interviews are how Biden and Trump guide the country's political imagination; how they set the agenda and mark the dividing lines. That is why word experts at analyzed the language differences between Donald Trump and Joe Biden during the 2020 and 2024 election years, as we understand that what presidential candidates say doesn’t always carry as much weight as the way they say it.

What We Did

First, we collected transcripts and audio files for Biden and Trump’s public speeches, interviews and appearances during the 2020 and 2024 election years up to June. We analyzed the language they used in each election year for vocabulary size, sentiment (positivity), topic and their most mentioned foreign nations. We also calculated their Speech Rate (syllables per second with pauses removed) and Articulation Rate (syllables per second including pauses).

Key Findings

  • Biden’s vocabulary has risen from 2,069 unique words per 10,000 to 2,257 since the last election.
  • Trump’s vocabulary has fallen from 1,842 to 1,811 since the last election.
  • Biden’s top topic in this election is “economics” (72 mentions), and Trump’s is “Biden” (322 mentions).
  • Biden’s positivity rate has risen from 29.44% to 38.47%, while Trump’s negativity rate has risen from 50.75% to 60.48%.

The Vocabulary, Sentiment and Articulation of Biden and Trump, Measured

First, we analyzed the vocabulary, positivity vs. negativity and articulation rate of both candidates in each of the 2020 and 2024 campaigns.

Our analysis shows that Biden retains the largest vocabulary of the two. In fact, Biden’s vocabulary has grown by 9.09% from 2,069 unique words per 10,000 last time to 2,257 in 2024. Meanwhile, Trump’s has fallen by 1.68% from 1,842 to 1,811. However, this needn’t make Trump any less capable of maintaining America’s highest office: one pre-Biden study found that historically, “most presidential candidates speak at grade 6-8 level” — although Trump’s vocabulary was notably the lowest of all.

 Perhaps understandably, given the results of the last election, Trump’s negativity has risen by one-fifth since 2020, while that campaign’s winner uses nearly one-third more positive words than he did last time around.

However, one area in which Trump shows improvement is in his articulation. He now averages 4.59 syllables per second (SPS), which is 4.80% faster than his 2020 rate of 4.41 SPS. Conversely, Biden has slowed by 2.08% from 4.33 to 4.24 SPS. Since fast talkers convey information at the same rate as slow talkers, the main advantage of Trump’s speed is his grip on the audience. In an attention economy of tl;dr, TikTok minutes and lightning-fast explainers, this could be a winning strategy.

The Most Distinct Words Trump and Biden Use in Campaign Speeches

Next, we compared Biden’s and Trump’s word use (in their lemmatized form) to see which words each uses most disproportionately more than the other.

In 2020, Biden used the word “act” 10.99 times as frequently as Trump. This word has since fallen out of Biden’s ten most distinct words and been replaced in the top spot by “Americans,” which he uses 7.39 times as often as Trump. Biden continues to use a range of encouraging verbs, from “act” and “provide” in 2020 to “help,” “pass” and “promise” in 2024. He has also begun addressing the nation as a whole more, with “Americans,” “union” and “democracy” among recurring themes.

One study into Biden’s rhetoric found he has “an emphasis on a citizen-based attitude,” exemplified by the phrase: “We celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause. The cause of democracy… The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.”

 Trump “has a certain way of speaking,” said Mark Meadows, Donald Trump’s former chief of staff. “And what he means — well, the sum can be greater or less than the whole.” Given Trump’s rhetorical strategy of repeating his own words and sentences, combined with his lengthy feats of free association, it may be surprising that Biden uses his most distinctive words at a higher comparative rate.

Still, Trump’s most distinctive words arguably paint a more recognizable self-portrait than Biden’s. “Great,” “win” and “China” remain among Trump’s most distinctive ten words since the 2020 election, and while he used to say “Joe” at 6.66 times the rate of Joe Biden, today “border” has taken its place (5.08 times as frequent). One glance at the Trump column above, and you know who’s talking.

The Topics Trump and Biden Prioritize in Campaign Speeches

If Biden doubles down on his favorite words more than Trump (see above), Trump never misses a chance to talk about his favorite topics. In both of their face-off elections, Trump has spoken about his top ten topics around twice as much, on average, as has Biden.

Trump talks more about the electoral process and social aspects of politics, while Biden is more policy-oriented. For example, “Biden” is Trump’s number one topic, mentioned 524 times during the 2020 campaign and 322 times in 2024. This latter figure is 4.47 times the rate of Biden’s current pet topic, “economics” (72 mentions). “Biden,” “election” and “Democrats” remain among Trump’s top five topics since 2020.

“Economics” and “Americans” remain among Biden’s three most-addressed issues. This campaign also marks the first time either candidate has featured “climate change” among their top ten topics. Biden has spoken about climate change 64 times so far, although he has also been using the term “climate crisis” to emphasize the urgency of the situation. He has used his attention to the environment as a differentiator from Trump’s climate inaction and denialism.

“Anyone in or out of government who willfully denies the impacts of climate change is condemning the American people to a very dangerous future — and the world, I might add,” said Biden during his 2024 Earth Day address. “They want to take us backwards, sideline our workers, let China and others lead the race for clean energy.”

The Countries Trump and Biden Mention Most in Campaign Speeches

Finally, we analyzed each candidate’s mentions of particular countries. Both feature China as a mainstay, although nothing compares to Trump’s 671 mentions of the country on the 2020 campaign trail — 18.6 times as many China mentions as Biden, although it was also Biden’s most-mentioned country. Averaged across their top tens, Trump mentioned specific countries 12.2 times as often as Biden in 2020.

However, it is notable that Biden is talking a lot more about foreign countries than he used to, with 2.35 times as many mentions of his top ten countries this time around compared to 2020. War-torn Ukraine has entered Biden’s vocabulary, as has Russia, while Israel is the country he mentions the most. Palestine doesn’t make the top ten for either candidate because, despite 143 of the 193 United Nations General Assembly members voting for Palestine to join the UN, the U.S. is one of several countries that doesn’t recognize Palestine as a state. The debate over this recognition will likely be a major feature of the winning candidate’s presidency.

Seal it with an X

Every word and pause of the 2024 presidential candidates is closely examined by the media and much of the public. Sometimes, this takes an unsavory turn. With Biden turning 80 during his presidency and Trump likely to overtake him as America’s oldest president while in office should he win the 2024 election, both candidates have faced speculation as to their mental health condition — speculation that is in itself politically incorrect, medically unethical and stigmatizes those living with dementia.

However, what this does point to is that the oratory skills and stylings of America’s most high-pressure salesmen can make just as much impact as their written policy and their likelihood of achieving their stated goals. It also indicates how candidates and press alike are not averse to getting personal. We’ll have to wait until November 2024 — or perhaps even 2028 — to see who gets the final word.


In this project, we explored the language differences between Donald Trump and Joe Biden during the 2020 and 2024 election years.

First, we used to collect transcripts and audio files for Biden and Trump's public speeches, interviews and appearances during the 2020 election year and the 2024 election year up to June. We manually checked the nature of these speeches and removed unrelated speeches.

After collating this sample (2020 = 223 speeches; 2024 = 145 speeches), we analyzed the language both candidates used in each election year.


  • Vocabulary size: we analyzed the number of unique words used per 10K words.
  • We used the HuggingFace AI algorithm to assess the sentiment (positive, neutral and negative) expressed by both candidates across their speeches.
  • We used an AI tool to extract the most commonly discussed topics by each candidate.
  • We ranked the most mentioned foreign nations by candidates.
  • We compared each candidate's usage of words (in their lemmatized form) to find out the most uniquely popular words used by each candidate compared to the other, measured by the % difference between the usage distribution of both candidates.


  • We used an audio library to calculate the Speech Rate (syllables per second with pauses removed) and Articulation Rate (syllables per second including pauses). We calculated this on an intervention level, i.e., every time a candidate intervenes.

This data analysis was completed in June 2024.