Speeches Dip below 6th-Grade Level, Study Says; They've Been Coached by Consultants and Schooled by Speech Writers. Now, the 2016 Presidential Contenders Are Getting a New Evaluation: The Readability Test. [Derived Headline]

By Erdley, Debra | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 18, 2016 | Go to article overview

Speeches Dip below 6th-Grade Level, Study Says; They've Been Coached by Consultants and Schooled by Speech Writers. Now, the 2016 Presidential Contenders Are Getting a New Evaluation: The Readability Test. [Derived Headline]


Erdley, Debra, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


They've been coached by consultants and schooled by speech writers. Now, the 2016 presidential contenders are getting a new evaluation: the readability test.

There were no failing grades, but none earning high school honors English, either, in an analysis by Carnegie Mellon University researchers of speeches given during the presidential campaign.

The researchers found five candidates aspiring to the highest office in the nation typically serve up campaign speeches using vocabulary and grammar at a junior-high level.

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton, all lawyers, consistently gave campaign speeches in that range. Billionaire businessman and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's grammar and vocabulary occasionally slipped just below a sixth-grade level, the analysis showed.

At the other end of the scale, the scientists found speeches by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the eldest of the five candidates in the study, used 10th-grade-level grammar and vocabulary.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, until recently considered the darkest of dark horse candidates, wasn't included in the study by Maxine Eskenazi, a professor in CMU's Language Technologies Institute, and graduate student Elliot Schumacher.

They built a database of campaign speech transcripts from the five candidates and put them through a program called REAP that determines the reading level of documents and ranks them from grade 1 to 12.

Schumacher and Eskenazi took their cue from social media, where they saw a growing number of critics analyzing candidates' speeches.

"So much has been out on social media," Eskenazi said. "People are doing analysis different ways. We have proven technology that has been used over a decade. The analysis needed to be done. This is a year when people are interested in what is being said in politics, and we figured our algorithms would work for that."

The researchers ranked how often candidates deviated from the text in stump speeches they repeated many times before different audiences.

Clinton, who honed her diplomatic skills as secretary of State, and Trump, who boasts of his skills as a negotiator, often made adjustments in their speeches as they went from one group to the next. …

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Speeches Dip below 6th-Grade Level, Study Says; They've Been Coached by Consultants and Schooled by Speech Writers. Now, the 2016 Presidential Contenders Are Getting a New Evaluation: The Readability Test. [Derived Headline]
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