About Science of the Deal

Overview of Method

Like so many others, we found ourselves surprised by President Trump’s victory. We had consumed many of the polls that signaled a clear and easy victory for Hillary Clinton. Why did we get this so wrong? This question initiated our early discussions that led to experimenting with several methods of analysis, including varieties of semantic analysis (e.g. sentiment and content analysis).

After several months of reading, listening, and watching President Trump’s speeches, we found that performative discourse analysis to be the most powerful. In contrast to semantic analysis, performative analysis focuses on the way a speaker uses language as opposed to the meaning of the specific terms the speaker uses. At the Initiative on Religion, Politics and Conflict we had been using performative analyses in diagnosing religious groups’ language behavior. This project is effort to apply our expertise in religious discourse to President Trump.

In the research and analysis on this site, we focus on how Trump speaks to his supporters, the country and the world at large. UVA undergraduate students have manually scored over 100 of President Trump’s speeches. To score the speeches, the students would count the number of instances of nine discourse categories (see below), and weight them for each given speech as a percentage of the total word count. This project specifically recruit undergraduates from different political, educational, religious, and ethnic backgrounds to avoid bias in scoring.

Our categories are:

  1. Qualitative Hyperbole: Excessive use of exaggerated superlatives (e.g., very, great, the best!)
  2. Quantitative Hyperbole: Use of absurdly large numbers (e.g., "billions and billions and billions...")
  3. Egocentrism: Constant reference to himself and self-aggrandizement (e.g., "I alone can fix it.")
  4. Repetition: Repeated references to person, thing or event (excluding himself)
  5. Opportunism: Taking advantage of popular fears and misconceptions (e.g., "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.")
  6. Compliment: Over-the-top flattery (e.g., "You're a very special man," Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping.)
  7. Binary: Us-vs-them rhetoric
  8. Implicature: Use of conventional language to insinuate something to group insiders (e.g., "dog whistling" and sarcasm)
  9. Counter-factual: Counterfactual statements intended to imply conspiracy (e.g., "They could be ISIS. It could be a plot.")


Jonathan D. Teubner is the Editor and Faculty Advisor for the Science of the Deal. Teubner is Lecturer in Religion and Politics and the Associate Director of the Initiative on Religion, Politics and Conflict at the University of Virginia.

Meagan Martin is the Managing Editor of the Science of the Deal and Producer of the Podcast series. Martin is a fourth year majoring in History at the University of Virginia.

Lona Manik is a fourth studying Foreign Affairs with a minor in Global Sustainability. She also works as a podcast producer for WTJU, a Charlottesville radio station, and is interested in the new age of politics and media.

Courtney Cuppernull is a fourth year double majoring in Leadership and Public Policy and History, with a passion for education and welfare policy. She is also interns at UVA's Women's Center, plays for the Women's Club Soccer Team, and is involved with the University Programs Council.

Ida Namazi is a fourth year studying foreign affairs with a minor in philosophy. She has a passion for Iran-US Policy and is involved with Persian Cultural Society, Charlottesville Book Club, and Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity

Emma Boyd is a third-year studying Foreign Affairs with a minor in History, with an interest in economic and education policy. On-grounds she is involved with Madison House and Alpha Kappa Psi, the professional business fraternity.

Judy Ho is a fourth year studying Foreign Affairs and East Asian Studies concentrating in China. She is involved with the Chinese Student Association, AKAdeMiX, and VISAS.

Kpakpando Anyanwu is a third year studying Anthropology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She is also involved with the Center for Global Health, Orpheé Noir, the Young Women Leaders Program and the Behavioral Research Lab at Darden.

Kristen Barrett is a second year double majoring in English and Drama. Outside of the classroom, she splits her free time between the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, her Broadway a cappella group the Hoos in the Stairwell, and the Paul Robeson Players.

Emily Yeatts is a third year double majoring in Government and English. On grounds she volunteers for Madison House and plans to go to graduate school for public policy.

Liam Carolan is a fourth year studying Government with a minor in Economics. He also swam on the Club Swim team.

Tania Ghazar is a Fourth Year studying Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies. She is the student manager of the Historical Analysis group in RPC and is the Language Assistant for Arabic at Shea House. She plans to study public policy with a focus on National Security after graduating.

Gaby Kulesz is a second year double majoring in Spanish and American Studies with a focus on Latin America. Gaby is also a member of the University of Virginia Women's Rowing Team.

Allysa Reimer is a fourth year student majoring in Foreign Affairs. She has focused on Middle-Eastern relations and worked over three years at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in the Consular Affairs Office and the Office of Public Affairs.

Seth Greer is a Third Year English Distinguished Major who is also majoring in History and minoring in Government. Seth also devotes his time to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at UVA, as well as Abundant Life Ministries and Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville.

Melissa Friedhoff is a Third Year studying Foreign Affairs in English. This coming year, she will be writing a thesis on contemporary modes of spoken storytelling. Outside of RPC, Melissa does research on conservative politics with Professor Larycia Hawkins, interns for the Andrew Sneathern campaign, and is part of Tri Sigma sorority.

Elizabeth Kruse is a third year student double majoring in Economics and History with a minor in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures. She is a Senior Editor for the Virginia Review of Politics, publicity/policy chair of One Less, and publicity chair of the Virginia Riding Team.

Parker Anderson is a fourth-year Politics Distinguished Major. Parker is currently writing his thesis on mass shootings and political sociability

Bradley Shipp is a Third Year at the University of Virginia majoring in Global Security and Justice. In addition to being the Project Manager for the Trump Analysis group, Bradley is part of the RPC team co-authoring an academic reader on the White House’s changing discourse on Islam from the Reagan to Obama administrations.

Ansley Bradwell is a fourth year studying Foreign Affairs and Spanish. Upon graduation, she hopes to explore her passion for government and attend law school in the future.