Trump Evokes 4X the Voter Emotion

From now until Election Day 2024, Sentient is using its technology to track changes in Implicit Emotional Appeal with the key Democratic and Republican contenders over time. The first wave of results from our Implicit Emotional Appeal Candidate Tracker are in, offering important insights for both parties.

  1. Negative emotion is the overwhelming sentiment across all candidates.
  2. Republicans dislike Biden more than Democrats dislike Trump.
  3. Independent voters feel equally negative about Biden and Trump.
Our Findings


First, notice in Figure 1 that Democrats feel implicitly positive about Biden and Republicans feel positive about Trump. We would expect that result.

Also notice how the negative emotion toward Biden is stronger among Republicans than the negative emotion toward Trump among Democrats. In fact, Biden’s abysmal 83.9 Implicit Emotional Appeal score is so low that it is consistent with how people feel automatically when they see pictures of snakes1 or hear nails on a chalkboard2. Biden's low appeal score amongst Republicans exemplifies how the prospect of him leaving the White House generates powerful motivational emotions among Trump supporters, significantly increasing the likelihood of high voter turnout in the party.

However, the most important insight is that no single Presidential candidate evokes immediate positive emotion in the minds of the Independent voters. This represents a significant opportunity for candidates seeking to stand out within this poorly perceived field. The preponderance of negative emotion, especially around key issues of Gun Violence and Roe vs. Wade, is defining the early messaging from candidates. Candidates who can harness the passion around those issues and position their brand as the solution with positive emotional outcomes have the potential to differentiate their candidacy among Independent voters.

Digging deeper into the motivational emotions of Independent voters, we can clearly see which issues offer the greatest opportunity for influencing the ballot booth behavior of Independents.


The first step is to understand which issues are currently the most concerning to Independent voters. In Figure 2 above, we can see that all of these issues carry high levels of concern for voters. Crime, Addiction, Inflation and Gun Violence top the list. However, which of these issues are the most important in terms of determining voter preferences for candidates? To get to that level of insight, we need to look at the relationship between degree of voter concern on the issues and voter Emotional Appeal for the candidates.


In Figure 3 above, the Emotional Appeal for Biden vs. Trump is contrasted according to voter concern on major issues. This analysis reveals how positions on issues are driving implicit sentiment toward candidates.

For example, when we compare the Emotional Appeal for Trump across voters who are concerned or not concerned about Gun Violence, we see dramatic differences. Voters who are not concerned about Gun Violence, have tremendous implicitly positive feelings for Trump (119.0), while voters who are concerned about Gun Violence feel automatically negative when they think of Trump (91.9). This emotional differential (27.1 points) provides insight into the degree to which this issue is emotionally motivational for Independent voters.

When we extend the analysis across all issues that were significantly correlated with appeal for Biden or Trump we end up with a clear picture of which issues hold the greatest emotional sway over Independent voter preference for these candidates.

The more concerned Independents are about Addiction, Climate,
Gun Violence, Roe v. Wade, and Russia the less they like Trump.
The more concerned they are about Crime, Immigration, and Taxes
the less they like Biden.

Overall, comparing the intensity of reactions from Independents reveals that Trump triggers 4X the differentiating emotional response (positive and negative) on the issues most concerning to them. Biden’s best chance for turning Independent voters away from Trump is on Roe vs. Wade. Trump’s appeal among Independent voters who are concerned about this issue is extremely negative (85.9), and it is the second most important issue differentiating Trump and Biden emotionally.

Importantly, this first wave of voter attitudes, reveals that:

  • Voter sentiment toward candidates is extremely negative.
  • There is a vacuum of positive emotional inspiration from the current candidate field.
  • This election is still about Trump, not Biden.

1 Source: Sentient Labs, (Reid, McCandless, Sauer, Messer, 2015, The Emotional Appeal of Natural Kinds)
2 Source: Sentient Labs, Sonic Humanism Scale, with Made Music Studio


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