Politician speech

Modern political language not up to scratch

Aristotle said that the unexamined life is not worth living. He also believed that political leaders should necessarily be people who had great self-awareness. Leaders should be able to inspire the people who in turn make and move the ship of state, and leaders should be able to direct that ship. You can see where this is heading, in Australia and the United States right now there are election campaigns underway (although in Australia’s case it is currently a de-facto campaign) and the level of political discourse is hardly reaching Aristotelian aspirations. If you are wondering why the political discourse is leaving you less than impressed then a new study may reveal why that is so.

Donald Trump's language was at a 4th grade level, at least two grades below his peers.

The study comes from Carnegie Mellon University where researchers analysed the language used in political speeches in the current US presidential election.

Analysis of the language used by Republican candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio (who has since dropped out of the race), and Donald Trump as well as Democrat candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders has shown that as the campaign has gone on the language used has become simpler and simpler. On average the language, based on grammar and words used, of the candidates is typical of students in American school grades 6-8, which corresponds to an age of 11-13 years.

To put things in perspective speeches from past presidents were also analysed.

In terms of grammar the candidates generally scored between 6th and 7th grade level with Donald Trump scoring just below 6th grade level. Comparatively Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address scored an 11th grade level for grammar but comparing the written word with the spoken word is hardly fair to the spoken word. George W. Bush on the other hand used grammar that was at a 5th grade level.

As far as vocabulary or word use goes, current presidential candidates ranged from Donald Trump’s 7th grade level to Bernie Sanders’ 10th grade level. Campaign trail speeches by past presidents Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama were at least at an 8th grade level.

An earlier analysis by the Boston Globe suggested that Donald Trump’s language was at a 4th grade level, at least two grades below his peers. These researchers however used an analytical model called REAP which looks at how often words and grammatical structures are used at each educational grade level.

However you analyse it, it’s no wonder you aren’t feeling inspired.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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