The complexity of Congressional speeches has dropped by nearly a full grade level since 2005, according to a new report by the Sunlight Foundation. Members of Congress now speak at about a 10.6 grade level, whereas they spoke at an 11.5 grade level just a few years ago. The grade level assessments are made according to the Flesch-Kincaid test, which equates longer words and longer sentences with higher grade levels.
More pathetic? Most Americans still cannot understand what the hell Congress is saying. That’s because most Americans speak at only an 8th or 9th grade level.
Out of all members of Congress, 15 of the bottom 15 speakers are Republicans, with Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) ranking as the least complex speaker at a 7.9 grade level. Mulvaney is an honors graduate of Georgetown University and holds a JD from University of North Carolina. Oh, and he’s also the son of a high school grammar teacher.
And since you are undoubtedly wondering how the Greatest Congressman of Our Time ranked, rest assured that John Dingell (D-Awesomeland) came in at a respectable 12.1 grade level. (“Teabagger” does have three syllables, after all.) Speaking of the Tea Party, one of the study’s investigators, Lee Drutman, has theorized that the infusion of Tea Party members in 2010 may have contributed to the decline, noting that all but two of the bottom 10 speakers were freshman Republicans. “Particularly among the newest members of Congress, as you move out from the center and toward either end of the political spectrum, the grade level goes down, and that pattern is particularly pronounced on the right,” Drutman says.
For instance, Tea Party member Rob Woodall (R-GA) ranked second to last, with an 8.01 grade level. One example of Woodall’s, um, concise speaking style?
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