If you know anything about marketing then you surely know that commercials are put together a third grade reading level. Yeah, businessmen really think highly of their customers.
So, that’s why it should come as no surprise whatsoever that Donald Trump’s campaign speeches are written at a middle-school level.
A new study from Carnegie Mellon University used a reliability model called REAP to analyze speeches from Republican candidates Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and former candidate Marco Rubio in addition to those of Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Researchers Elliot Schumacher and Maxine Eskenazi used a small sample size of speeches that included five from Cruz, six from Rubio and Sanders, seven by Clinton and eight by Trump.
They than ran the speeches through REAP (not an acronym), which measures “how often different words and grammatical structures appear within a given text” before comparing them with reading material from different grade levels.
Trump, who boasted about having “the best words,” was found to have the lowest marks of the bunch. The vocabulary in his speeches equated to that of a 7th-grade reading level, while Cruz and Clinton were about an 8th-grade level. Rubio’s speeches came in at just under a 10th-grade level and Bernie’s speeches were just above a 10th-grade level.
The grammatical composition of the candidates’ speeches came in at the 7th-grade level… with the exception of Trump, that is. His were just under a 6th-grade level.
Don’t get too excited just yet, folks. Schumacher made it a point to mention that the candidates don’t necessary sound like middle-schoolers when they give speeches. Yeah, we know that some of them actually do, but that’s not the point of the study. In fact, the analysis was meant to understand how “accessible” their speeches are to readers and listeners.
There are a lot of interesting pieces of data you can take out of the study, but what Schumacher found most intriguing was the variation between a candidate’s speeches. This suggests that a candidate is tailoring his or her speaking style to different audiences, and I’m sure that’s exactly what they’re doing. It makes sense if you think about it. Relaying the same message the same way will only reach X amount of people, but switch the style up a wee bit and you’ll find that more people are tuning in and understanding what you have to say.
“It’s interesting to look at how various candidates portray themselves … I think it is interesting to think about how that varies based on the situation,” he said.
A similar study was conducted back in August using a different method known as the Flesch-Kincaid, which measures average sentence length and the number of syllables per world.
“When we speak, we usually use less-structured language with shorter sentences,” Schuamcher and Eskenazi wrote. “So while measures such as Flesch-Kincaid are appropriate for written speech, they are not really reflective of the structure of spoken language.”
“REAP has been trained on written texts … But it concentrates on how often words and grammatical constructs are used at each grade level and less on the length of the sentence and of each word,” they added.
By no means are these individuals dumb, but they know that they have to be clear and concise when they speak, otherwise their messages will get lost in translation. It doesn’t mean that we’re dumb either, though. In short…