Study: Presidential Candidates Speak From Seventh To Tenth Grade Level

495px-Donald_Trump_by_Gage_SkidmoreBernieSandersFor those who believe that candidates engage in little better than baby talk or talk down to voters, a new study may support you. Carnegie Mellon University has studies the speeches of all of the presidential candidates and found that they speak at a low of a seventh grade level for Donald Trump to a high of a tenth grade level for Bernie Sanders. For my part, Sanders scores big time whenever he uses the word “oligarchy” and sends millions online in desperate searches.

The study is entitled “A Readability Analysis of Campaign Speeches from the 2016 US Presidential Campaign” by Elliot Schumacher and Maxine Eskenazi. They are with the Language Technologies Institute at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University

They looked at campaign speeches of five presidential candidates in the 2016 US presidential race and to examined “their evolution over time and according to the type of speech.” They looked at Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.

They noted that speeches by past presidents while on campaign and the Gettysburg Address were at least at the eighth grade level.

Trump scored worst at the seventh grade level while Sanders was the curve breaker at the tenth grade level. No one scored at the college level. On grammar Sanders and Cruz tied for the best at the eighth grade level. On word choice in the announcement of their candidacy, Sanders again was the class favorite and scored above the tenth grade level. Rubio came in second. Trump and Clinton tied for last place on that category.

Notably, on grammar overall Lincoln did the best and Reagan the second best. Of the candidates overall, Rubio came in first.

Here is the report: CMU Report

49 thoughts on “Study: Presidential Candidates Speak From Seventh To Tenth Grade Level”

  1. TS, not surprisingly you totally miss the point. Whether Trump will deliver on his positions is another thing altogether. But the honesty that Trump conveys is in his message, something completely absent from the other candidates’ messages. For example, Trump made his first real mark when he conveyed his position on unacceptable entry of certain Mexicans and Muslims into the USA. NO other candidate told the truth about that, but Trump did. And Trump was roundly attacked at ever side by the Establishment, the leftists, and the Media for telling the truth. You need to watch Pat Condell’s video about 7 or 8 times given your lack of perspicacity to grasp this essential point.

  2. This says more about what the candidates think of their “masses” than anything else. If we keep education ‘progressing’ in this direction we will soon find the candidates giving major stump speeches on the Cartoon Network.

  3. How to define politician talk (low-high)

    1. Hug & kiss babies, then seal their lollipops.

    2. Sanctimonious, hypocritical, duplicitous pusillanimous pip-squeaks.

  4. Renegade – I did your test. Now I don’t know what to think! I should go find the tangible dictionary. The dot com version tells me peruse is a word which is defined to mean opposite things:

    verb (used with object), perused, perusing.
    to read through with thoroughness or care:
    to peruse a report.
    to scan or browse:
    The shoppers perused the magazines near the cash register while waiting to check out.


    How can you read with thoroughness and care while you scan or browse? Maybe you can, but those seem conflicting to me.

    1. Steg and Kerry

      4 Steg….the 1st is usually the correct one and secondary ones are lighter on usage with tertiary being the one conveying the common misaaplication.

      Best to use a Websters online version.
      The CinC is never w/o his “football” shackled to a military officer’s wrist. Duty rotates amongst armed svcs including USCG.

  5. Well, at least the articulation of the candidates exceeds the quality of this blog with all its childish errors, the peanut gallery excusing and even defending.

  6. Saw Bernie in Boise yesterday. He used his oligarchy line and the crowd cheered. I had the same thought. How many people cheering understand the meaning of that word?

  7. I’d like to know why so many people, like Rush Limbaugh, pronounce “erudite” incorrectly.

    It has three syllables, not four.

  8. The “average” American reads at a 7th – 8th grade level. This set of candidates speak to Americans at, or above, those levels.

  9. Ralph Adamo, you’re living in Trumplandia if you really think FINALLY, we’ll have a hack leader who doesn’t lie (uh, spin).
    Thanks JT for the LOL RE your oligarchy comment. Can millions of people really be that uneducated in America? And aren’t Bernie, Hillary, and Trump part of that oligarchy?
    The real problem with your college students (and mine) is that they have not been taught to viscerally question and challenge. They have not been taught that FACT and LOGIC should destroy IDEOLOGY. Instead, they’re being taught to open wide and swallow the latter and demonize anyone who attacks their IDEOLOGY as racist, islamophobic, and now back to ole Hitler and his national socialists.

  10. Trump just got off the phone with NBC Matt Lauer today, concerning the Belgian, Brussels terror attacks.
    Trump spoke in simple terms when Matt asked, “what would you do the master mind of the Paris attacks” who got caught a few days ago in Brussels.

    NBC reached out to Hillary, but she declined the interview.

    PS……. Obama took the nuke codes with him to Cuba. Just in case.

  11. Even an 8th grader understands common sense. Good to know.

    I wonder why they left Ben Carson out?

  12. Well, I am so glad that people are noticing the candidates do not have a command of the English Language……at last.!! God be with the days when Newt Gingrich was Speaker….a great man who could speak without punctuating his sentences with….ems or ahs…..or the myriad of other things they all say to give them a chance to gather their thoughts.!
    I have resided in the US for close to 43 years and I have always maintained, Newt Gingrich and Cindy Adams, (gossip Columnist for the New York Post ) were the only two people who could articulate ANYTHING.!!
    Did anybody hear The Donald , the night he used the word…..” BIGLY.” …….to describe something.??? He repeats a few phrases…….ALL THE TIME.!
    Please…do not let that man represent America….

    1. Guinness – the important thing about the English language is being able to communicate. Trump probably communicates to a larger group than anyone else.

  13. As if these candidates are so intelligent that they consciously “reduce” their language for the masses: please.

    Trump can’t spell or punctuate on Twitter let alone reach oratory heights.

  14. Another jejune, puerile, and utterly feckless, vapid obnubilation, courtesy of Jon Turley. Dupes, dopes, and schemers will certainly cloud the issues, but the reality is that the American public craves the truth. They detest being lied to. The professional politicians specialize in lies. Trump’s success, however, is founded on his directness, straightforwardness, and honesty. Those things are precisely what the leftists hate so much, and they explain why they hate Trump. But Americans want the truth, not 8th grade, 12th grade, or postgraduate discussion. The plain and simple truth. Pat Condell gets it. Do you?

  15. One of the first things they teach you in public speaking is to select your audience, know them and speak to them in their language.

  16. Readability index

    Earnest Hemingway ….4th Grade and most readable
    Affordable Care Act …..13th grade level and most difficult to read.

    Now remember the great leader of the House who said…pass it so we can read it?

    Sometimes it pays to dumb down the prose.


    DEFINE “Peruse”.
    As in ” I just received this essay, would you peruse it and let me know your thoughts?”

    Then look up the definition.



    ..did you get the gist of peruse correct?

    Most college grads get it wrong and it is often used in every day language.
    Kind of like the use of me and I as objects of a preposition or the object of the verb “to be” and it conjugates?

    Re. Trump…..Love him or hate him….I get his gist.

    Have to say, he has mastered the art of not calling somebody something and still call him something.

  17. Perhaps they are speaking at the level an audience understands, without running to a dictionary. We used to call these “plain spoken”. If voters were required to have a high school diploma, you might get a higher level of word use and grammar. Our education quality is so bad every candidate needs to speak to the lowest common denominator. We are 24th in world education, we used to be #1.

  18. Looking at the People who have been Voted into Office in the Congress AND the Presidency, the Whole World can see that the Voting Population of the United States is NOT made up of Rocket Scientists.

  19. “Of the candidates overall, Rubio came in first.”

    Okay Professor Turley, you are preaching establishment candidate. No thank you.

    Do you know what college Rubio went to?

    How about Sanders?

    Do you know where Trump went to college?

    Once you answer these, instead of asking yourself why do they speak at high school levels, ask why the media reports it at high school levels.

    Maybe the public only understands it at 7th grade levels because colleges & common core has dumbed down our society. The students would rather protest than learn.

Comments are closed.