The one gaffe that never seems to hurt Trump, Clinton

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the Values Voter Summit in Washington on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the Values Voter Summit in Washington on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. AP

Apparently, the road to political success isn't paved with the building blocks of good grammar.

Grammarly an online grammar checker, waded into the online weeds off the campaign trail to scan the musings of candidates' supporters to check their grammar. (And no, apparently they didn't do an ethics or good taste scan).

Democrat Lincoln Chafee, by the Grammarly measure, has the most erudite fans. They made just 3.1 mistakes per 100 words and used 304 unique words per 1,000 words.

Unfortunately, he's also dead last where it really matters -- in the polls. And he has just 9,526 Facebook followers compared to Bernie Sanders' 1,484,460, the leading Democrat. In the Real Clear Politics  average of national polls, he has just a tenth of a percent of support. That's dead last among the 20 Democratic and Republican candidates.

And the candidate followed by fans with the most mistakes? Donald Trump. His commenters averaged 12.6 mistakes per 100 words, roughly three times as many as Chafee. Democrats, in general, had better grammar than Republicans by the Grammarly measure. They made an average of 4.2 mistakes per 100 words compared to 8.7 for Republicans.

Trump likely doesn't care. He's still leading in the polls and has 3,828,553 fans, trailing the Facebook leader, Ben Carson, by fewer than 50,000 followers. And whereas Chafee follower's favorite words were pretty bland: candidate, debate, support, campaign, senator and Democratic -- Trump's people tossed about hot button words such as illegal and immigrant.

Sanders followers used words similar to those in the Chafee camp, and they were only slightly less grammatical, but Sanders is in second place behind Hillary Clinton, whose followers made the most mistakes -- 6.3 per 100 words -- among the Democrats.

But the fact Clinton leads everyone in the Real Clear average at 41.5 percent to 25.4 for Sanders and 22.8 percent for Trump among their parties' prospective voters should take some of the sting out of the grammar score.


We began by taking a large sample of Facebook comments containing at least fifteen words from each candidate's official page between April 2015 and August 2015. Next, we created a set of guidelines to help limit (as much as possible) the subjectivity of categorizing the comments as positive or negative. Since the point of the study was to analyze the writing of each candidate's supporters, we considered only obviously positive or neutral comments. Obviously negative or critical comments, as well as ambiguous or borderline negative comments, were disqualified.

We then randomly selected at least 180 of these positive and neutral comments (6,000 words) to analyze for each candidate. Using Grammarly, we identified the errors in the comments, which were then verified and tallied by a team of live proofreaders. For the purposes of this study, we counted only black-and-white mistakes such as misspellings, wrong and missing punctuation, misused or missing words, and subject-verb disagreement. We ignored stylistic variations such as the use of common slang words, serial comma usage, and the use of numerals instead of spelled-out numbers.

Finally, we calculated the average number of mistakes per one hundred words by dividing the total word count of the comments by the total number of mistakes for each candidate.