Congressional discourse a grade level lower than in '05, study says
Congress now speaks at almost a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago, with the most conservative members of Congress speaking on average at the lowest grade level, according to a new analysis from the nonprofit, nonpartisan government watchdog group Sunlight Foundation. Today's Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, the analysis says, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Gettysburg Address reflects an 11.2 grade level, and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech a 9.4 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level. You can find more comparisons here. Of course, what some might interpret as a dumbing down of congressional discourse others will see as more effective communication. And lawmakers of both parties still speak above the heads of the average American, who reads at a level between eighth and ninth grades. According to the analysis, of the 535 voting members of Congress, Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina speaks at the lowest grade level, at 7.9. Louisiana's representative with the lowest speech level reported in the analysis, Republican Jeff Landry, is ranked No. 12, with an 8.6 grade level. See the speech-level rankings of all members of Congress here.
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