Dictionary.com Study Reveals Shifts in Political Awareness and Vocabulary Since 2016 Presidential Election; Alignment with Site Search Data
OAKLAND, Calif., April 18, 2017 – While the 2016 Presidential election left Americans split across party lines, there is one thing the majority can agree on – more than half (53%) of overall Americans now feel more informed about current affairs than before the Presidential election, according to a new study released today by Dictionary.com, the leading online and mobile English–language resource. When looking at responses broken down by political party, exactly 58% of both Democrats and Republicans agree (vs. 50% of independents) they are more informed now about current events as compared with prior to the November vote, an uptick over respondents across the board. Dictionary.com set out to track the impact of recent political strife and headline–grabbing events, tied to and following the election, on people’s political awareness and vocabulary.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Dictionary.com from March 20–22, 2017 among 2,237 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.
“It’s fascinating to see a direct connection between words used by and about politicians and the words that resonate with our users in response to newsworthy events,” said Dictionary.com CEO Liz McMillan. “These findings are indicative of the impact that the current political discourse has on every day Americans – and in a positive way, as Americans now appear to be more critical of language used and are expanding their vocabularies.”
Make America Read Again
More than half of Americans (53%) say they feel more informed about current affairs now than they did before the 2016 Presidential election, and exactly half (50%) say they are now reading more political news.
- · Millennials aged 18–34 (60%) feel more informed about current affairs, compared to those aged: 35–44 (51%), 45–54 (50%), and 55–64 (48%).
- · Millennials also admit to reading more political news now than before the election (58%), compared to those aged those ages 45–54 (40%) and 55–64 (44%).
- · Democrats (60%) are most likely to say they read more political news now than before the election, compared to independents (43%) and republicans (50%).
Lawmakers: The New Linguists
Dictionary.com found that words used by politicians were trending in site lookups following several election–related events, including the primary debates, election night, and President Trump’s inauguration. The survey further supports the trend of politicians’ language impacting the general public’s vocabulary, finding that nearly 6 in 10 Americans (57%) now feel a greater
need to analyze the meaning of words used by politicians due to political events of the past year.
- · Both ends of the age spectrum – older Americans aged 65+ (66%) and millennials ages 18–34 (63%) – are more likely to agree with this statement than other age groups (51% of those ages 35–44, 50% of those ages 45–54 and 51% of those ages 55–64).
- · Democrats (65%) are most likely to say they feel a greater need to analyze the meaning of words used by politicians, compared to independents (58%) and republicans (48%).
Trumpisms, Tweets, and Terminology
It wasn’t just the word bigly that captured the country’s attention. More than one third of Americans (36%) admitted they have come across a word they didn’t know during coverage of the 2016 Presidential election and/or new administration. This is especially true for nearly half of Millennials ages 18–34 (49%).
- · 33 percent of Americans also feel that their vocabulary has expanded since the 2016 Presidential election due to political news coverage, with 31 percent admitting they have looked up the definition for a word they didn’t know during coverage of the 2016 Presidential election and/or new administration.
- o Millennials (46%) are the most likely to have looked up a word they didn’t know, compared to those aged 35–44 (29%), 45–54 (21%), 55–64 (25%), and 65+ (26%).
What words piqued peoples’ curiosity the most during the election? According to survey findings, specific words (which also reflected Dictionary.com’s internal trending data) that Americans were made aware of due to the 2016 Presidential election include:
- · alt–right (16%)
- o Dictionary.com added this term to their site on March 30, 2017, after a surge a word lookups in prior months.
- · bigly (16%)
- o Dictionary.com saw a jump in lookups for bigly throughout President Trump’s campaign, but the largest spike was October 19–20, 2016, following a debate between Trump and Hilary Clinton. Interest for bigly jumped 19,687 percent during this time.
- · executive order (13%)
- o Dictionary.com saw its biggest spike in searches of this word on January 30, 2017 with an 844 percent increase in searches. On March 19, 2017 interest for the term spiked again, increasing searches 693 percent.
- · xenophobic (12%)
- o Dictionary.com saw the largest spike in lookups for this term on June 24, 2016 (the day after the UK voted to leave the European Union) with a 938 percent increase in lookups.
- · misogynist (11%)
- o Searches for misogynist spiked on November 9, 2016, following the election of President Donald Trump. Interest in the term jumped 643 percent.
- · fascism (11%)
- o Fascism has seen several spikes since Trump’s election in November. Its first spike was on November 9, 2016, following the election, when interest in the term jumped 305 percent. A similar increase in interest for the term occurred on January 20, 2017, President Trump’s inauguration date.
- · filibuster (10%)
- o On January 31, 2017, Dictionary.com saw a 369 percent jump in searches for this word. On March 23, 2017, the term saw an even bigger 472 percent jump in searches.
- · populist (9%)
- · schadenfreude (8%)
It’s Reigning (Millennial) Men
Millennial men reported higher rates of feeling more informed, increasing their vocabulary, and looking up words they weren’t familiar with than both millennial women and men of different age groups. Men aged 18–34 were more likely to agree with the following statements, compared to older men and women of the same age:
- · Nearly 70 percent of millennial men (69%) now feel more informed about current affairs than they did before the 2016 Presidential election (compared to 50% of men ages 35+ and 53% of women 18–34).
- · 58% of millennial men have come across a word they didn’t know during coverage of the 2016 Presidential election/new administration (compared to 30% of men ages 35+; 42% women 18–34).
- · A little more than half of millennial men (52%) feel their vocabulary has expanded since the 2016 Presidential election due to political news coverage (compared to 33% of men ages 35+; 30% women 18–34).
- · Over half of millennial men (57%) have looked up the definition for a word they didn’t know during coverage of the 2016 Presidential election/new administration; nearly twice as much as men ages 35+ (28%) and women 18–34 (38%).
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Dictionary.com from March 20–22, 2017 among 2,237 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact email@example.com.
Dictionary.com, an IAC (NASDAQ: IAC) company, is the world’s leading, definitive online and mobile resource dedicated to helping people master the art of language. We provide tens of millions of global monthly users with reliable access to millions of definitions, synonyms, audio pronunciations, example sentences, translations and spelling help through our services at Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com. Our leading mobile applications for reference and education have been downloaded more than 100 million times.
Dotted Line Communications on behalf of Dictionary.com