Culture

Donald Trump Speaks at a Seventh-Grade Reading Level

by Tod Perry

March 18, 2016
Photo via (cc) Flicker user (cc) New Hampshire Public Radio

Donald Trump once bragged at a campaign rally that “I have the best words.” Well, according to researchers from Carnegie Mellon, he speaks those “best words” at a middle-school level. Researchers Elliot Schumacher and Maxine Eskenazi analyzed the speeches of the current Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to measure the grade level of their vocabulary and grammar, and Trump scored the lowest.

Trump’s speeches are notoriously off the cuff, low on specifics, and big on platitudes—and research says they’re spoken at a seventh-grade reading level. Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton deliver speeches at an eight-grade reading level, and Marco Rubio, now out of the race, speaks just below a tenth-grade level. Bernie Sanders is the most linguistically advanced of the pack, with the language of his speeches registering at an eleventh-grade level. According to analysis reported on in October by The Boston Globe, Trump speaks at a fourth-grade level, but this research used a different measuring stick, the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, which bases its rankings on sentence length and number of syllables per word.

Trump’s simple speaking style may account for his popularity among certain voters. A recent study by The New York Times found that “in the places where support for him runs the strongest, the proportion of the white population that didn’t finish high school is relatively high.” The Atlantic backs up that figure, saying, “The single best predictor of Trump support in the GOP primary is the absence of a college degree.” 

(H/T Carnegie Mellon)

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Donald Trump Speaks at a Seventh-Grade Reading Level