Everywhere you look these days there’s a new headline telling you about how the race for the White House is heating up. Between the name calling and the grandstanding, it almost seems like a reality TV show playing out before our eyes. Here at Acrolinx, we’re not in the business of being political and don’t intend to start. But, being the language geeks that we are, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to offer a unique perspective on the election.
It started, as most things do, when one of us asked a simple question: What, if anything, can we learn about the candidates by studying their official campaign websites?
To be clear, we’re not talking about the merits of their ideas or the practicalities of their plans. You can judge that stuff for yourself. What we’re interested in is the quality of their content. As a portal for presenting themselves to the world, their websites are critically important. And, while we understand that the candidates haven’t authored the content themselves, the language being used and how well it’s written still very much reflects who they are.
All told we analyzed more than 954,000 words spanning over 2,200 individual web pages. Our findings below also include some general information about the sites that you may or may not have known. No matter what your political views may be, these five takeaways offer some interesting new perspectives on the candidates.
1) Clinton and Trump Have More to Say Than Anyone Else
Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but the two candidates who’ve said the most on their websites also happen to be the current front-runners. At 255,962 words, Trump’s website is loaded up with far more content than any of his Republican competitors. More than double the amount of content on Cruz’s site and nearly so relative to Rubio’s.
Meanwhile, with a whopping 286,601 words, Clinton has the most to say of all. To put that into perspective, her website contains more words than the first three Harry Potter books combined. Whether Trump and Clinton are more passionate, or just long-winded, and whether Cruz and Rubio are succinct or just short on ideas is for you to decide. For his part, Sanders seems to have taken the middle ground, not wanting to say too much or too little. Maybe 171,507 words is just right?
2) There Aren’t Any Content Rock Stars in the House, but Rubio Comes Closest
So when it comes to overall content quality, none of the candidates exactly blew our minds. And that’s not a politically motivated statement, it’s just the truth.
We score content quality using a 100-point scale, where the higher the score, the better the quality of the content. When our software analyzes content quality, it’s specifically looking for grammar, spelling, style, and terminology usage issues. The more issues it detects, the lower the overall score the content earns. (By the way, if you want to know all of the geeky details, you can find them here.)
While what constitutes a good score is subjective based on individual preferences, in our experience 80 is the threshold for good content quality. As you can see, when we scored the candidates’ websites, they all earned scores well below that.
Having said that, if content quality is any indication of the strength of a candidate, then Rubio is the best man for the job. He’s got the highest Acrolinx Score and therefore the highest quality content. Of course, he’s also got far less content than some of his competitors, which could explain why. After all, consistently creating great content at scale isn’t easy unless you’ve got the right tools to help you.
3) Only 3 Candidates Offer Meaningful Spanish Language Content
Given that there are more than 41 million native Spanish speakers in the United States (second only to Mexico), it’s interesting that only three of the five top candidates have Spanish language content prominently placed on their sites.
Clinton, Cruz, and Sanders are all trying to appeal to this demographic on some level and their bilingual sites reflect that. Meanwhile Trump and Rubio’s sites do not. Rubio does have a couple of Spanish language pages, but not many and they’re not easy to find. Maybe he and Trump don’t care about these voters, at least not enough to target them with content in their native language. Or maybe they just need some tips on how to pick the right localization vendors. (No worries, we’ve got you covered guys: this post is for you).
4) Trump and Rubio Have the Most Readable and Lively Content
The story doesn’t end with content quality. Acrolinx also scores content around a variety of other dimensions, including its readability and liveliness. These are two elements of writing that make content more engaging and enjoyable to read. They’re among the things that differentiate good writing from great writing.
Interestingly enough, here too Rubio sweeps with the best overall scores, followed closely by Trump. Their content is the easiest to read and arguably the most engaging. Cruz, by contrast, has the worst performing content across these dimensions with scores that are considerably lower than all of his competitors. Sure he could have been writing that way intentionally, but why would you? Meanwhile Clinton and Sanders are middle of the pack.
5) Sanders and Cruz Have the Most Formal Content
When it comes to writing in a way that speaks to people, the formality of your content matters. If you’re too formal you risk sounding like a stodgy institution. If you’re too informal you can also alienate your audience.
Here we see that Rubio and Trump have the most informal content while Sanders and Cruz’s content is the most formal. It’s not the 1950s gentlemen; you might want to loosen up a bit!
Who Are You Going to Choose?
If the race for the White House were decided based on content, we’d have a field of lackluster candidates, but a clear winner in Marco Rubio. He’s got the best content overall, even if there isn’t very much of it relative to his competitors.
Fortunately, in the real world there are plenty of other factors that influence our decisions (for another website related one, check out this interesting post from Slate). Nevertheless, as you weigh your options over the course of this election, remember to be critical of the details. The quality of a candidate’s website content may seem trivial, but it could very well be an early indication (or warning sign) of many factors, including the person’s attention to detail, ability to connect with his or her audience, and overall style.
May the best man, or woman, win.