Rewind: Hillary at 7th Grade level, Trump at 6th in First Presidential Debate

Hillary at 7th Grade level, Trump at 6th in First Presidential Debate

September 28, 2016. Austin, Texas. In an exclusive analysis by the Global Language Monitor, Monday night’s first presidential debate was found to be tough and hard fought, fiery and feisty. It was everything it was built up to be — and less. Apparently, those endless hours of preparation worked well for Hillary, while Trump’s dozens of speaking engagements (and live press conferences) did not serve Trump as well. At least the lessons he had garnered from them were lacking in one respect: Trumps’s extemporaneous style.

“Speaking ‘extemp’ serves many debaters quite well,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and Chief Word Analyst of GLM. “In fact, the technique is taught as one method employed for a successful debate outcome. It means ‘carefully prepared but delivered without notes or text’. Evidently, Trump followed the ‘carefully planned’ for the first half hour of the debate, then he appeared to embrace the alternate definition: ‘uttered on the spur of the moment’ as Webster’s puts it.”

Even so Hillary appeared to get stronger, with all prior symptoms of illness (or weakness) apparently vanquished, or at least held in the debate continued.

According to the modified Flesch-Kinkaid, SMOG index and other language analytical tools both candidates scored at the middle school level with Trump at the sixth grade level (6.0) and Clinton at the seventh (7.2). As you can see from the charts below Trump came in at the George W. Bush grade level equivalent, while Hillary scored at the George H.W. Bush level.

Combined this is the lowest level of discourse GLM has measured thus far this century. In the third and final debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the president scored at an 8.8 grade level equivalent, while Romney came in with a score of 7.7 for a combined score of 16.5 vs. a combined score of 13.2 for Clinton-Trump.

The passive voice can be, and often is, used to deflect responsibility for a particular circumstance or action. Therefore the analytical language programs are often optimized to find sentences written in the passive voice. So a politician might say, ‘the taxes were raised’ totally obfuscating and obscuring exactly who was the doer of said action. In truth, we all probably know that it was that politician who had the taxes raised.

Both Clinton and Trump both used a relatively modest amount of the passive voice, each scoring at the 5% level, and that was exemplified by the direct attacks leveled at each other, no deflection called for.

The lowest grade level equivalent thus far this century was scored by John McCain, during his acceptance speech for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008 at 3.7. This was probably of little surprise for a wartime hero known for few words and a directness of speech.

For more information, call 1.737.215.7750 or email