Clinton’s Problem Engaging Men: Emotional Analysis of the First Debate

By: Sticky
on October 23, 2016

Sticky, a visual engagement analytics firm I worked for this past summer, tested several clips from the first presidential debate through its platform to see people’s emotional responses to the candidates. The platform tracks peoples facial expressions while watching a video, recording 6 different emotions — Disgust, Fear, Happiness, Puzzlement, Sadness, and Surprise.

We tested three clips, one on Clinton talking (responding to Trump’s accusations on her stamina), one on Trump talking (“I have a winning temperament”), and one compilation clip of Trump interrupting Clinton. Sticky also segmented the results by gender, to see if there are any gender differences in the reactions to the clips.

We found many sexist patterns that will probably hurt Clinton come November.

Clinton’s Stamina

When Clinton was discussing her stamina, men had almost no reaction compared to women, who reacted with a large amount of positive emotions. Check out the video results for men below.

Besides an initial but short-lasting peak of around 10% sadness, the highest peak for men was around 8% happiness, which is within the margins of error for noise over signal.

Men’s Low Levels of Happiness for Clinton Discussing her Stamina

Women, on the other hand, had several high peaks of happiness, ranging from 14–16% — more than double men’s happiness levels. Clinton talking about her stamina registered twice as well with women than with men, which is evident in the video results for women below.

Clinton talking about her accomplishments, what she’s done that shows she has the stamina to be president, registers very well with women. Check out the happiness graph for women below:

Women’s High Levels of Happiness While Clinton Discusses her Stamina

But these results are indicative of a troubling pattern of low engagement with men, that we see more of in the next clip.

Trump’s Temperament

Everyone was disgusted by Trump when he was discussing his temperament, and everyone reacted positively to Clinton’s shimmy.

Clinton’s Shimmy

Not surprisingly, women were more disgusted by Trump than men were, with 50% more disgust, which you can see in the two video results below.

Men’s Disgust Graph for Trump’s Temperament Speech (notice the peak level of 10% and time spent below the 5% significance threshold)

17% of women showed disgust, whereas only 10% of men showed disgust. The peak of disgust for men was when he said “I have a winning temperament,” which was also high for women, but the peak for women was at the very beginning, when he interrupted the moderator.

Women’s disgust levels spent more than twice as much time in the range of statistical significance compared to men’s.

Women’s Disgust Graph for Trump’s Temperament Speech (notice how much of it is above the 5% significance threshold)

The gender disparity was also strong in the reactions to Clinton’s shimmy with women reacting 166% more strongly than men.

25% of women reacted positively to the shimmy, whereas only 15% of men did. Positivity was still the strongest response from both genders to Clinton’s move.

Notice the Max Happiness Level for Men (15%)

Notice the Max Happiness Level for Women (25%)

The stronger reactions from women is probably a product of stronger emotions from seeing a woman literally shake off all of the negativity from a man shouting at her (and over her) on stage.

Trump Interrupting Clinton

Men are, on average, half as disgusted with Trump’s many interruptions as women are, and are also twice as happy as women are.

For men, happiness spends almost a third more time above the 5% significance threshold compared to women, and disgust spends almost 3x below the significance threshold compared to women. Notably, disgust starts out high for both groups and it declines steadily for men, whereas it remains high for women.

Men’s Happiness Graph for Trump Interrupting Clinton (notice the peak in the middle, mid-interruption)

Happiness peaks in middle of the video for men and the end of the video for women.

Women’s Happiness Graph for Trump Interrupting Clinton (notice the peak at the end, when Clinton tries to prevent Trump from interrupting her)

The male happiness peak on Trump’s interruptions comes mid-interruption. The female happiness peak comes at the very end, at the only time in the video where Clinton attempts to speak over Trump interrupting her.

Men’s Disgust Graph for Trump Interrupting Clinton

The disgust levels for women spent 3x as long above the levels of statistical significance than the disgust levels for men did.

Women’s Disgust Graph for Trump Interrupting Clinton (notice the high peaks and time above 5% significance).

Men almost don’t notice the pattern of a man aggressively interrupting and talking over a woman, which in itself says something about the state of American gender relations.

Key Takeaways

Sexism may hurt Clinton among male voters come November, because men were less favorable to her compared to women, and men also gave more leeway to Trump than women did. For example, men were forgiving of Trump’s many interruptions, and men responded with significantly less positivity than women did to Clinton’s shimmy.

For many watching, this is a familiar pattern — a woman tries to speak up, and she is talked over. A childish and temperamental man tries to argue the woman on stage is more temperamental than he is, and the men watching don’t necessarily disagree.

These results say a lot about America’s culture of sexism, and this sexism is going to inform the election greatly. Clinton, it appears, will need to work twice as hard to engage men than she needs to engage women; Trump, on the other hand, has a safety net with men, who tend not to notice his blatantly aggressive sexist behavior.

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