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Obama's 2015 State Of The Union Address Peaked At A Grade 10 Level

Illustration for article titled Obamas 2015 State Of The Union Address Peaked At A Grade 10 Level

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.

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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."

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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:

Illustration for article titled Obamas 2015 State Of The Union Address Peaked At A Grade 10 Level

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.

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DISCUSSION

15...13...11...10....9. Hmm, what does it say we went from college-level speeches to 9th grade? Idiocracy and 2nd grade speeches in 25 years?