May 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Trump's favorite words: Policy ideas he talks about most

A word cloud showing some of the most common phrases Donald Trump uses when speaking about policies he intends to implement.
Data: Axios analysis of 49 public Trump speeches from a database maintained by Rev; Note: OpenAI's ChatGPT 4 was used to help sort the phrases, which were confirmed by journalists; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios

In public remarks about plans for a second term, former President Trump often talks about banning mask and vaccine mandates, and deporting undocumented immigrants — while spending only about 11% of his time on policy plans, an Axios analysis found.

Why it matters: The analysis reveals the extent to which Trump's talking points reflect MAGA conservatives' lingering anger about COVID restrictions, their focus on tying immigrants to the nation's problems, and their push to regulate education.

  • He says relatively little about his plans for the economy, according to the analysis of his comments in 49 speeches, interviews and public appearances over the past 16 months.

Zoom in: The graphic above represents the most common phrases Axios found in a review of 697 instances Trump spoke publicly about policy from January 2023 through mid-April 2024.

  • Trump most frequently promised to "defund any school with a vaccine or mask mandate" and to conduct "the largest domestic deportation operation in American history."
  • He also frequently vowed to "defund any school pushing critical race theory," "rebuild our cities," "indemnify all police officers," and "keep men out of women's sports."

The big picture: Trump still spends nearly 90% of his speeches talking about everything but his policy plans: railing on President Biden, denouncing Democratic policies, telling stories and complaining that prosecutors are out to get him.

  • Trump's team has laid out a detailed policy platform on his campaign's website. He has proposed dramatically increasing presidential powers and gutting protections for federal employees in order to stack the government with loyalists.
  • But very few of those specifics make it into his speeches.
  • Trump's campaign did not comment on this story.

Between the lines: For this project, Axios defined Trump's policy references as specific, actionable statements about legislative policies that Trump intends to implement, change, repeal or keep.

  • Our analysis examined 190,573 words Trump said and found 20,821 of them (10.9%) related to policy plans.

Many of Trump's most common phrases reflect how he's made restricting immigration the cornerstone of his 2024 campaign.

  • His most common pitches to voters on the issue: "stop the invasion," "terminate every single open border policy," reinstate the "Trump travel ban," and implement "ideological screening on all immigrants."

Democrats have said Trump's language is racist, encourages hate and ignores the economic and cultural benefits immigrants bring to the U.S.

  • But Trump's attacks on immigrants haven't seemed to hurt him in recent polls, which have indicated that more Americans trust or approve of him than Biden to handle issues such as immigration and the economy.

Such polls have indicated that voters prefer Biden over Trump when it comes to dealing with abortion rights.

  • Trump has bragged about appointing the three conservative Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade. "Protecting innocent life" is one of his frequently used policy phrases — but it isn't among his top 10.

The intrigue: Trump often mentions that he'd stop "Joe Biden's inflation nightmare."

  • But noticeably absent from his most frequent policy references are phrases about how he plans to improve the economy, aside from his "drill baby, drill" calls to increase oil production.

Methodology: Axios used OpenAI's ChatGPT 4.0 to research a Rev database of Trump's public statements from Jan. 1, 2023, through April 16, 2024, to determine phrase-usage frequency. Generative AI was not used to create the story content.

First, our journalists sorted transcripts from Rev to identify the political rallies, press conferences or interviews where Trump spoke more than 100 words. Our final dataset contained 49 speeches.

Then, we used traditional natural-language processing to identify paragraphs that might contain forward-looking policies: statements that had at least one or more first-person "will" statements, "going to" statements, or other words indicating potential future action.

Next, we used ChatGPT to review each paragraph and extract potential forward-looking policies.We then manually reviewed every output, confirming nearly 700 items. Frequency of speech about policy was determined by counting the number of words pertaining to legislative policies that Trump intends to implement, change, repeal, or keep.

Finally, we used an algorithm to group similar policy-related phrases, which were reviewed by our journalists to confirm relevance.

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