“I believe in a smarter kind of American leadership,” President Barack Obama said at one point during last night’s 2015 State of the Union address. However, according to the most-widely used measure of readability, last night’s speech was only written at a ninth-grade reading level. (RELATED: AP Fact Check Tears Apart Obama’s State Of The Union Claims)
The Flesch-Kincaid readability scale tests how easy it is to read a passage by weighing the total words-per-sentence and syllable-per-words. A Daily Caller analysis found the State of the Union scored a 9.4 on the grade level scale, indicating that it is easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students.
Obama is only the latest in a long trend of dumbed-down addresses. The sophistication of the State of the Union has been on a steady decades-long decline as more and more Americans tune in. John F. Kennedy regularly gave State of the Union addresses at an undergraduate level, while Obama’s first-term average was the lowest of the televised era.
But 2015’s rating actually represents a step forward for Obama, whose first-term Flesch-Kincaid average was at the eighth-grade level. President George W. Bush on average gave the highest ranked speeches of the past five presidents, while his father George H. W. Bush set the record in 1990 for giving the only State of the Union address ranked on a seventh-grade reading level.