The most viral piece of news from the past two days is that first lady hopeful Melania Trump plagiarized a speech Michelle Obama gave when she was in a similar position, at the DNC in 2008.
The side-by-side video can be seen here:
We decided to run the moment through Sticky’s face-coding emotion recognition software (still in beta until release in a few weeks) to see if we could pick up on how the American public is interpreting the event. Using US General Population panel of 100 people, we discovered the following:
Sadness at Identical Language
The peak emotion for the whole video was sadness, which occurred immediately after the video clip switched from Michelle Obama’s speech to Melania Trump’s version.
This shows that people react negatively to the almost-identical language in Melania’s speech, and how much higher it is above every other emotion shows how strong that visceral negative reaction is.
I will focus only on Puzzlement, Sadness, and Disgust for the remainder of this discussion because those are the dominant emotions throughout.
Puzzlement and Disgust at Continued Copying
Puzzlement and Disgust spike in quick succession after Melania is revealed to have plagiarized the second portion of the speech as well; people are likely disgusted by Melania’s actions, and they’re puzzled by how it’s possible the same language can elicit similar responses at the two rival parties’ conventions.
Puzzlement is the highest emotion for a long stretch at the end of the clip, when Melania’s final words elicit loud cheers and clapping from the GOP crowd.
Puzzlement Beats Sadness
The question on the viewer’s mind must have been, how can the two hopeful first ladies, whose husbands have so dramatically opposing visions, have similar messages? And why are the crowds in both convention halls similarly riveted?
Even more so than the Disgust and Sadness, which probably negative in response to the seeming plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speech, Puzzlement shows up as more common throughout the clip. What Sadness has in depth (a higher peak), Puzzlement has in breadth (more consistent throughout).
The interesting finding is that people don’t know that they’re having this response while they’re having it. According to Sticky survey results, people seem more concerned by the similarity between the two speeches than the commonality of sentiments that the speeches both express.
The top response to the question -- “Which option best describes how you feel about this clip?” is that “Melania Trump plagiarized her speech,” and the second top response is that “An oversight by one of Melania Trump’s speechwriters is to blame for the speech similarities.”
Only a small minority (7%) responded with: “Michelle Obama was expressing common sentiments that cannot be plagiarized.” What’s powerful about this is that people’s emotions tell a different story than their conscious awareness.
Sticky’s platform can be used to track the emotions that people aren’t even aware of, as the disparity between the ubiquity of puzzlement and the low response to the only option revealing that sentiment.
We also asked participants “To you, how similar or different are the excerpts of these speeches” and these are the results:
85% said either “Identical” or “Very Similar”
98% said “Identical,” “Very Similar,” or “Similar” and
Only 2% said the speeches were “Different”
The visual and emotional data show that the majority of people, regardless of political party affiliation, find the clip troubling and believe the speech was plagiarized.
And with Donald Trump Jr. now accused of recycling language also, it appears that the Trump campaign has some management issues to address.