UT Wordmark Primary UT Wordmark Formal Shield Texas UT News Camera Chevron Close Search Copy Link Download File Hamburger Menu Time Stamp Open in browser Load More Pull quote Cloudy and windy Cloudy Partly Cloudy Rain and snow Rain Showers Snow Sunny Thunderstorms Wind and Rain Windy Facebook Instagram LinkedIn Twitter email

UT News

Communications prof in WSJ

Impressive biographies, fine policy positions. But do the candidates sound presidential? Their vocal cords — as much as the substance of their words — could influence who becomes the next president, claim the people who study, measure, “focus-group” and coach the human voice.

Two color orange horizontal divider

Impressive biographies, fine policy positions. But do the candidates sound presidential? Their vocal cords — as much as the substance of their words — could influence who becomes the next president, claim the people who study, measure, “focus-group” and coach the human voice. “Voice matters — it’s what sells,” says John Daly, a University of Texas communications professor who has written a book about persuasion. To gauge what the candidates’ voices say about their appeal, The Wall Street Journal asked Washington voice coach Susan Miller of VoiceTrainer LLC to analyze the voices of seven Democrats and five Republicans by pitch, speed, and two measures of variability — how loud and soft their voices are, and how high and low they go. Ms. Miller also toted up the “ums” and “ahs” in two 20-second samples of each candidate’s voice. The vocal-cord primary, like the campaign itself so far, is inconclusive. But our unscientific poll of Ms. Miller and other leading voice experts suggests: Among the Republicans, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s and television actor Thompson’s baritones win on authority, but lose on energy. On the Democratic side, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s voices convey caring. But Mrs. Clinton can sound shrill and Mr. Obama can lack forcefulness. The best voice “probably can’t be determined,” cautions Texas’s Mr. Daly.

The Wall Street Journal
Talk Is Cheap in Politics, But a Deep Voice Helps
Vocal Experts Measure Candidates’ Likability; Toting Up ‘Ums’ and ‘Ahs’

(Nov. 3)