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. Paul S.:

    My comment related not to my personal preferences, but to political reality.

  2. Due to political opponents and critics, for longterm survival, it’s necessary for politicians to add very accurate “disclaimers and footnotes”.

    For example: Bush Jr. was concise but also intentionally misled Americans for 7 years with his bumper-sticker rhetoric. Bush omitted the proper legal term of “suspect” and “person of interest” – using the adjective as the verb. Instead of saying “terror suspect” Bush omitted the “suspect” in order to mislead us.

    Bush was never tough on real convicted terrorists, he was extremely tough on “suspects and persons of interest – which means doubt, not certainty. In reality most of those tortured and falsely detained didn’t even meet the “person of interest” standard.

    This propaganda looks good on a bumper-sticker even if not perfect English.

  3. This is a rather silly and pointless conversation. The simple fact of the matter is that come 2017, Donald Trump will be back to selling rights to use his name and Hillary Clinton will be President.

    1. Mike A – Yesterday or the day before Bill Clinton went after the Obama years, saying how bad they were. Now, the question is, did he get a heads up that DoJ is willing to indict Hillary? There is a report that the FBI will explode (their word) if DoJ does not indict.
      If Hillary is to be the 3rd term of Obama and the first 2 terms were so bad (according to Bill Clinton) do we really want a 3rd term?

      1. Good Lord, I hate to say this but B. Clinton was referring to the 8 yrs of Congressional gridlock. Context..not sound bite. O How I wish there could be no doubt that he meant BHO..

  4. I believe our country is on automatic pilot. Now if the politicians could just leave us alone.

  5. G Mason, indeed very interesting.

    I’m wondering if Flesch-Kincaid has a Kool-Aid test.

  6. Just continuing a long established trend. Given the emotional and logically immature college kids of today, it will only get worse I imagine. Soon we will have just guttural leftist screaming and cries of ‘check yo white privilege’, ‘feminism rulz’ and ‘dont trigger me !! ” followed by much crying.

    I think most every person here will find this interesting.

    The state of our union is … dumber:
    How the linguistic standard of the presidential address has declined

    Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test the Guardian has tracked the reading level of every State of the Union

  7. @Dieter

    The “right of free speech” does not apply to all physical locations in the United States. For example, there is no “right of free speech” in my front yard, or in a meeting room that I have rented or paid for. Think about it like this. James Taylor has a concert at a theatre, or an arena. Does just anybody in the audience have the constitutional right to get up and sing Fire and Rain??? Or to shout down James singing Rock A Bye Sweet Baby James, because they think it is sexist??? Of course not. The police take them out and arrest them.

    That is why protesters at Trump rallies have to stay outside, in designated “public” areas, and get escorted out if they interrupt the rally from the INSIDE of the building, or arena.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Agreed. The epitome of the misapplication of “free speech” is the negation of any vestige of laws re. “disturbing the peace.”

  8. Perhaps I am wrong but it seems to me that the interruption of political rallies by shouters is not protected by the first amendment clause of so-called “free speech”. That amendment begins “Congress shall make no laws….” If Mr. Trump demands that interrupters are removed by police he may be constitutionally correct because he is not “Congress making laws…”

    1. Dieter – if the event is paid for in private money, then they have every right to kick out whomever they like. There are no free speech amendments active.

  9. “Because when is the last time a bunch of Republicans looted a liquor store, or burned down a town???”

    BOOM !!!

  10. @PhillyT

    That is because you liberal types do the same thing over and over and over…. You come on with the same old tired, “Us Liberal Democrats are sooo smart and sooo good, and you Conservative Republicans are sooo mean and sooo stupid.” Quite often, that is the whole substance of your arguments, with a Racisss!” canard thrown in for good measure.

    I am hardly the only person to notice it. Try reading Evan Sayet’s Kindergarten of Eden book for a good analysis. Or in your case, a good self-analysis. Geeesh, what is it with all the self-congratulatory “we’re really smart” stuff you guys do – – – you must have some serious self-doubts about your vaunted intelligence. But back to this, why is the focus always on Trump is dumb, and therefore his supporters must also be dumb, and no focus at all is put on the Democratic Party supporters??? When said supporters are raising hell that only “Black Lives Matter”, and shutting down Democrats brave enough to say, “All Lives Matter.” just for one example.

    Why is the focus on supposedly rowdy Trump supporters when it is the Democratic Party supporters who are shutting down free speech and acting like fascists? Sooo, every time you come out with the same stupid comments, I feel the need to metaphorically box your ears with a good dose of reality. Because when is the last time a bunch of Republicans looted a liquor store, or burned down a town???

    You’re welcome! Just hang in there, and I may actually be able to teach you a few things!

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  11. Sqeeeky,
    You are soooooooo predictable. Just run right to the same punch line every time. Sometimes I wonder what it must be like in there, but it gives me the shakes when I start to think about it.

    Carry on.

  12. Dave137 said. . . . .
    “Trump can’t spell or punctuate on Twitter let alone reach oratory heights.”

    Neither can Obama and he can’t count either. He’s good at oratory but so was Hitler.

    Hillary is good at counting because she counts her foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation real well.

    Hillary can spell but cannot comprehend or why not understand the words “Top Secret”.

  13. @PhillyT

    There you go again with that psychological desire to make you and yours seem sooo smart, and the Republican/ conservative types sooo stupid. Hmmm. I just wonder wonder what the speech level of these Democratic Party Hillary supporters is???

    Oh wait! We may have to do what the DEA did, and seek 10 or so Ebonics Translators first, to translate the babble into English.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  14. Here in Texas, the population of voters are 27% HS dropout, 48% HS graduate, 17% Bachelor’s Degree graduate, 8% Doctorate graduates.

    In the Senate, there’s more attorneys than there are businessmen. In the House, more businessmen than there are attorneys. Youth organizations serving the community take up 3% of the Senate but don’t appear in the House. Other organizations take up a larger chunk of the House but don’t take up the Senate.

    Conclusively, the Senate is far smarter, sharper, and more educated than the House in Texas. The House is more diverse, having a plethora of businessmen with a mix of attorneys, and other atypical organizations not found in the Federal level.

    I would say that if the Representatives, or Senators for that matter, started speaking 14th grade level and outlining their future plans for their re-election (if they’re elected) would start going over the heads of those who are 48% HS graduate with zero degrees or prospects for improving their lives.

    Now, if Texas started getting at least over 60% of those who were Bachelor’s degree, then the Representatives/Senators may speak in 14th level grammar, language, and syntax. Until then, 8th or 9th grade speech would suffice for the majority of voters in Texas.

    This is one of the reasons why I shake my head. For the many men who are refusing to go to college out of fear that false rape allegations may rock their world, that feminists have taken control of academia, and wanting to opt out… This is the clear cut reason why the Presidential candidates are speaking at such a grade level that speaks volumes.

    We’ll have more low-info voters as the years roll in. No more will we have highly educated, intelligent voters who are willing to dig in deep, figure out which candidates are being honest, and start backing those who are honest and have policies that they can agree with. Not this “Bernie Sanders is an atheist! So am I! I’m voting for him!” I had to rip an atheist online for this not because his atheism is dumb; his approach to voting for Sanders because of atheism is a very incredibly dumb one, indicating he’s a low-info voter with no aspirations to make strong political changes.

    Presidential candidates may make waves on the Federal level, which does impact States. I’ve said this before time and I will again. The candidates that affects your life with a much stronger, severe impact is NOT on the Federal level. It’s on the State level. By voting in those you want in the State, the judges, Supreme Court judges, etc. and so on, would affect how your life, and others, play out. That’s the real game-changer.

    By changing State politics to suit your advantage, you incur the net benefit of game-changing Washington yourself too.

    To end it short, a frontal assault on Washington’s political elite will end with no results. Undermining the political elite by entering backdoors will net results. Take a look at the movie Amazing Grace. What did Wilberforce do to change politics overnight when slavery was on the table? Sure, he railed, he argued. He fought in front of the political elites. He refused to fight dirty until he realized that the ultimate price to emancipate the slaves was to fight dirty. He gave the politicians their favorite weaknesses and vices; in doing so, he had the chambers to himself and people who were on his side. They voted out of slavery in 1865. Had Wilberforce continued to fight nicely and politely like a noble lord or sir, he would have died penniless and without an end result in sight.

  15. From an interview with Matt Lauer:

    “If we change the laws or have the laws, waterboarding would be fine,” Trump said to host Matt Lauer. “If they could expand the laws I would do a lot more than waterboarding.” Trump made the comments when asked how he would handle the interrogation of Salah Abdeslam, a conspirator in the Paris terror attacks who was recently captured by authorities, also in Brussels, on March 18.

    “Let the military take him over, they have to get their act together,” Trump said. “Belgium is no longer Belgium. Belgium is not the Belgium that you and I knew, Matt, from 20 years ago, which was one of the most beautiful cities and one of the safest cities in the world. Belgium is a horror show right now.”

    Trump apparently doesn’t know that torture doesn’t result in good information. He also doesn’t know that Belgium is a country, not a city. I include that for those of you who don’t recognize that Trump is extremely ignorant. While he rates rates very low on the “truth” scale, it may because he lies, or, to be generous, maybe he’s just incredibly ignorant.

  16. Trump speaks at the emotional level of his supporters and tells a lie on average every 5 minutes according to a fact check group. One of Trump’s truths is that Cruz is a liar. Cruz runs a not too close second to Trump in that category..

  17. Funny when you think Carnegie Mellon and the rest of the Universities are educating our leaders. Maybe if they took the time to educate rather than how to formulate a protest rally they might speak better?

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