Politico: Obama SOTU Speech 'Registers at 8th Grade Reading Level'

Although the media would love to present Barack Obama as seven times brainier than George W. Bush, Byron Tau of Politico reports "President Obama's 2012 State of the Union address again rated at an 8th grade comprehension level on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test — the third lowest score of any State of the Union address since 1934."

Eric Ostermeier of the University of Minnesota's Smart Politics initiative conducted an analysis on the last 70 State of the Union addresses and found that President Obama's three addresses have the lowest grade average of any modern president. (Obama came in 13th out of 13; George W. Bush was at number eight.)

Ostermeier reports "each of Obama's three addresses are among only seven of 70 in the modern era that were written shy of a 9th grade level, and among the six that have averaged less than 17 words per sentence. Obama's 2012 and 2010 addresses averaged 16.6 words per sentence with his 2011 address coming in at 16.8."

He said "The Flesch-Kincaid test is designed to assess the readability level of written text, with a formula that translates the score to a U.S. grade level. Longer sentences and sentences utilizing words with more syllables produce higher scores. Shorter sentences and sentences incorporating more monosyllabic words yield lower scores,"

Tau added:

"Obama's average grade-level score of 8.4 is more than two grades lower than the 10.7 grade average for the other 67 addresses written by his 12 predecessors," they conclude...

Obama's use of simple language  is in part a reflection of his audience: the American voter in an election year. And it's part of a larger trend in simpler State of the Union language as the speech as transitioned from a simple address to Congress into a prime-time televised event.

Knowing our media elite, they would process this information and then praise Obama for talking down to the people, just as Time's Michael Kramer did for Bill Clinton in 1992: Clinton seemed instinctively to know how to put the hay down where the goats were."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis