Research-intensive study investigates trending words in our nation’s COVID-19 conversation.

A new study delivered by content intelligence platform Pluralytics took a science-backed approach to measuring trending words and topics being used in recent press reports from early April across our nation's conservative and liberal-leaning news websites to find common ground.

The era of COVID-19 has continually revealed what connects us, what separates us, and what motivates us. The same is true of the words we use. Words have enormous power to divide or to help us find common ground.

For this study, Pluralytics set out to see if we could find language that would bring people together around COVID-19 and to help leaders/brands/organizations. Over a 24-hour period in April, we analyzed the words from COVID-19 related stories from 10 news/information websites, widely considered to be liberal-leaning or conservative-leaning. These news sites are a proxy for a broader conversation that is driven by many kinds of stakeholders.

Here is what we found:

  • Polarization of the American COVID-19 conversation is evident by the striking word differences in liberal-leaning and conservative-leaning websites.

  • When the words analyzed were grouped into shared themes, their rankings and emphasis were different across liberal-leaning and conservative-leaning sites. Liberal-leaning sites prioritized words associated with Health, Politics and Community, while conservative-leaning sites favored Security, Economy and Politics.

  • “Shared“ and “Common Ground” words surfaced that are more likely to help unite otherwise polarized communities for a productive COVID-19 response. There are indicators of a potential "unity effect" in analyzing millions of words and applying our platform.

  • Effective pluralistic communication in the COVID-19 world will likely require thoughtful word choice, and a sensitivity to the dynamic word environment.

To see lists of words that are likely to divide us or help us find common ground, read the full study by clicking here.

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