Last night's State of the Union address by President Barack Obama was tailored around a tenth-grade comprehension level, which is actually higher than his previous speeches.
The speech analysis was conducted by Vocativ who used the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, a widely recognized reading comprehension algorithm. Using this test, large swaths of text can be assigned a numerical grade — from the first grade right up to college and the post-graduate level.
"Generally, in order for Obama to make himself understood to the broadest possible swath of the population, he tailors his speeches to the intellect of a 14-year-old," explains Vocativ. "But over the last few years the grade level of the president's speeches has edged up."
They also analyzed the grade level of every SOTU speech since Woodrow Wilson. Here's how Obama stacks up to some recent presidents:
Here's what it looks like visualized:
But as Vocativ correctly points out, this doesn't mean Obama is dumbing-it-down for his audience, nor does it mean that Americans are less intelligent than they were in the past. Rather, it can be construed as a sign of progress and democratic outreach; Obama is reaching out to a wider audience, including those who may not be highly educated, have learning disabilities, or for whom English is a second language.
Much more at Vocativ.
Image: Larry Downing/Reuters | Graph: Vocativ.