Comparing the language style of heads of state in the US, UK, Germany and Switzerland during COVID-19

Olenka Dworakowski, Tabea Meier, Matthias R. Mehl, James W. Pennebaker, Ryan L. Boyd, Andrea B. Horn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic posed a global threat to nearly every society around the world. Individuals turned to their political leaders to safely guide them through this crisis. The most direct way political leaders communicated with their citizens was through official speeches and press conferences. In this report, we compare psychological language markers of four different heads of state during the early stage of the pandemic. Specifically, we collected all pandemic-related speeches and press conferences delivered by political leaders in the USA (Trump), UK (Johnson), Germany (Merkel), and Switzerland (Swiss Federal Council) between February 27th and August 31st, 2020. We used natural language analysis to examine language markers of expressed positive and negative emotions, references to the community (we-talk), analytical thinking, and authenticity and compare these language markers across the four nations. Level differences in the language markers between the leaders can be detected: Trump’s language was characterized by a high expression of positive emotion, Merkel’s by a strong communal focus, and Johnson’s and the Swiss Federal Council by a high level of analytical thinking. Overall, these findings mirror different strategies used by political leaders to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1708
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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