skip to main content
Election 2016
"Email" Dominates What Americans Have Heard About Clinton
Election 2016

"Email" Dominates What Americans Have Heard About Clinton

by Frank Newport, Lisa Singh, Stuart Soroka, Michael Traugott and Andrew Dugan
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Data based on daily interviewing July 11-Sept. 18
  • Americans report hearing more varied information about Trump
  • Significant majority getting information about candidates each day

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Americans' reports of what they have read, seen or heard about Hillary Clinton over the past two months are dominated by references to her handling of emails while she was secretary of state.


By contrast, Americans' reports of what they have read, seen or heard about Donald Trump over this same period have been more varied and related to his campaign activities and statements.


These findings are based on an ongoing research project conducted by Gallup together with the University of Michigan and Georgetown University. Gallup conducted more than 30,000 interviews with U.S. adults from July 11-Sept. 18 to measure Americans' daily recall of what they read, saw or heard about the two major party candidates.

The word maps use font size to indicate the relative frequency of which specific words appeared for each candidate over the past 10 weeks.

Americans' frequent mention of "email" in response to the question about Hillary Clinton are followed by "lie," "health," "speech," "scandal" and "foundation," the latter referencing recent concerns about conflicts of interest with the Clinton Foundation.

The top substantive words Americans use when reporting on Trump include "speech," "president," "immigration," "Mexico," "convention," "campaign" and "Obama." Though Clinton has attacked Trump on several issues related to his character, no specific words representing negative traits have "stuck" to Trump the way the word "email" has to Clinton. Instead, Americans' recollection of information about Trump shifts in response to his campaign schedule, speeches, comments and the resulting controversies that sometimes arise from those comments.

This conclusion is reinforced by an analysis of changes in what Americans recall about the candidates over time. Americans have most frequently used the word "email" to describe Clinton in eight of the 10 weeks of this project so far. The only two times when this was not the case were the week of the Democratic National Convention, when "convention" became the most frequently cited word, and this past week, when mentions of Clinton's "health" and "pneumonia" rose to the top of the list.

The most frequently mentioned words for Trump have changed during the campaign, and these words often reflect his actions and travels as well as what he says about his opponent or President Barack Obama. In early August, Americans' most recalled words were associated with his comments about the Muslim parents of a fallen U.S. soldier, and then in the second week of August words associated with his claims that Obama started ISIS. Later, Americans used words associated with Trump's travel to Louisiana to view flood damage, and more recently his trip to Mexico. This past week, "health" was the second most frequently used word associated with Trump.

What Have You Read, Seen or Heard About Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the Past Several Days?
Most Frequently Used Words
Top Words Used
in Response to:
"What Read, Seen or Heard About Hillary Clinton?"
Top Words Used
in Response to:
"What Read, Seen or Heard About Donald Trump?"
Sep 12-18 Health Pneumonia Sick Issue Obama Health Bear President
Sep 5-11 Email Lie Scandal Interview Mexico Immigration President Speech
Aug 29-Sep 4 Email FBI Release Lie Mexico Immigration Speech President
Aug 22-28 Email Foundation Scandal Lie Immigration Change Campaign Policy
Aug 15-21 Email Foundation Lie Health Campaign Speech Louisiana Change
Aug 8-14 Email Lie Foundation Tax Obama ISIS Amendment Second
Aug 1-7 Email Lie Convention Campaign Family Muslim Ryan Son
Jul 25-31 Convention Email Democratic Speech Russia Email Convention Speech
Jul 18-24 Email President Convention Pick Convention Speech Republican Wife
Jul 11-17 Email Sanders FBI Scandal President Pick Pence Mate

Most Americans Hearing News About the Presidential Candidates

On most days over the past 10 weeks, at least 60% and often 70% or 80% or more of Americans said they were aware of having read, seen or heard information about the candidates in the past few days. Over this period, an average of 76% recalled information about Trump, compared with an average 73% for Clinton.

In early July, Americans were more likely to report getting information about Clinton than Trump. Trump then became more prominent in Americans' minds during the GOP convention in July, rising to the point where 81% recalled hearing about him. Clinton gained more attention than Trump again during the Democratic convention, peaking at 82% recall. Soon after the conventions, however, Trump regained the lead on this recall measure and remained on top throughout the entire month of August and early September.

Americans' reports of hearing news about Clinton jumped during the week of Sept. 12 after she fell ill at a 9/11 memorial service, announced that she had pneumonia and took a brief break from the campaign trail to recuperate. Clinton's 84% recall average for Sept. 12-18 -- reflecting the intense focus on her health and brief withdrawal from the campaign trail -- is the highest so far, slightly besting the percentages recorded for her and Trump during their conventions.



This project's objective is to understand the dynamics of the presidential campaign from the U.S. public's perspective, expanding the typical journalists' and pundits' assessments of the race and the two major party candidates.

While research often tracks Americans' opinions of the candidates or their changing vote intentions, few studies have assessed what information the public is absorbing from the campaign on a daily basis. With the enormous expansion of news sources and information available in today's environment, it is no longer possible to assume that what traditional news outlets cover is what is getting through to the public. Many Americans now get information about the candidates from social media, bloggers, partisan news sources, television, radio, the internet and social networks. The "read, seen or heard" data reported here encompass all of this election-related information.

This project will continue through to the election. Upcoming reports will look at differences in what subgroups of the population report about the candidates as well as the relationship between these reports and views of the candidates.

Lisa Singh is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University; Stuart Soroka is a professor of communication sciences and political science at the University of Michigan; and Michael W. Traugott is a professor of communication studies and political science at the University of Michigan.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted beginning on July 11, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 500 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on each weekly samples of approximately 3,500 national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030