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How Trump, Clinton And Sanders Change Their Voices To Win Over Voters

Charisma is a crucial component of a politician’s appeal to voters. But there’s more than one way to inspire confidence, or even adoration, among the audience of a political speech.

Voice scientist Rosario Signorello has studied how the current presidential candidates change their pitch and volume during public appearances. This week he presented that research at the Spring 2016 meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Signorello talks with Here & Now‘s Robin Young about a few examples of how presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders vary their voice and speech patterns depending on their audiences.

Interview Highlights: Rosario Signorello

While politicians may say very different things, are there similarities in the way they say them?

We found similarities across genders and between the two political orientations. We found out that when leaders address a diverse audience they widen their vocal pitch range, which means they use several different pitches from very low to very high because they have to diversify their speeches, and they have to fit everyone’s expectation of what a charismatic voice is and how a charismatic leader sounds.

How do you interpret these voices? How do you know what changes in a politicians’ vocals characteristics mean?

We found during the entire speech from beginning to end, the modulation of the vocal characteristics changes enormously. It’s not just about the huge arena, it’s also about the perceived goals that he has, like convincing everyone he is the best candidate and producing a vocal pattern that all the different subgroups of people in the audience would like to hear.


  • Rosario Signorello, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery and in the Voice Center for Medicine and the Arts at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. He tweets at @rosariorki.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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