The data visualization firm Periscopic lays it out in a new data visualization called On The Trump Emoto-Coaster. “If it felt like you were on an emotional roller coaster during this past Presidential election, just look at what was happening to Donald Trump,” the team writes. “As shown in 10 of the major speeches he gave from July through December, there’s a rise and fall of intense emotion.” As Trevor Noah so cuttingly put it last year, Trump has the unmodulated mentality of a toddler.
To create the site, which you can see for yourself here, Periscopic analyzed speeches Donald Trump gave from the RNC through his campaign victory, taking samples every two weeks. They would take the videos, recut and crop them to only feature Donald Trump’s face, and chart his emotional state with Microsoft’s Cognitive Services API, an algorithm that identifies emotional states from facial expressions.
What they built from that is an explorable, two-part visualization. Up top, you can see a line graph of Trump’s emotional state over time. “He seems to be extremely negative at the RNC and shortly thereafter. Then he seems to enter a ‘cooling off’ period where he’s displaying more positive emotions and less volatility,” explains Kim Rees, co-founder of Periscopic. “Then as the general election starts closing in, his negativity and volatility ramp up again and continue.” His most angry speech was on October 13, in Cincinnati, Ohio, about a week after the “grab them by the pussy” comment emerged and ensuing allegations of sexual assault.
Then, in the second part of the visualization, you can scrub through Trump’s emotion in each speech second-by-second, much like a non-linear video editor. The red is anger and the orange is sadness–these are the two “negative” emotions Trump shows most frequently–while green is happiness, and blue is surprise. Tap on any part of these emotional timelines, and Trump’s face in that moment will pop up in a YouTube window.
“I don’t know if we used a large enough sample to make any sweeping statements about trends or specific findings, but from what we can tell, his range of emotions is more volatile than other people we looked at,” says Rees. And looking at those timelines demonstrates this trend well. Trump ping-pongs between extremes of anger and surprise, and sadness and happiness. While Trump isn’t compared to other candidates in this visualization, Periscopic has analyzed data from other presidents and candidates. In fact, the project started by analyzing the debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton. They found Clinton to be happier than her critics thought. “Hillary exhibited a back and forth between positive and negative emotions, but it was far more measured,” Rees says. “There were larger swaths of neutral emotions capped by less intense, non-neutral emotions.”
Ultimately, though, Periscopic decided to table the comparison of the two candidates because they didn’t want to “feed the sexist rhetoric that women need to be pleasant and accommodating,” says Rees.
There are limits to the project. The data doesn’t analyze Trump’s actual words, so it is only as good as Microsoft’s emotional algorithm. Notably, the algorithm had difficulty mapping Trump with this Make America Great Again hat on. Furthermore, the data didn’t find that Trump exhibited much contempt, which is surprising given his clear contempt for unsecured emails and “nasty” women.
Rees, too, noticed that robots might not see what people see. “Something that might not be apparent from the visualization, but was noticeable when watching the video was that he displays positive emotions in unexpected ways. His ‘happy’ faces tend to be smirks and smug looks. He only seems to exhibit genuine happiness after applause or in response to someone in the audience or toward his family,” she says. Indeed, for the next four years, maybe we should set up Ivanka next to the teleprompter.