Here's The Secret To Connecting With Voters Through Language, In One Infographic That's Very Good News For Donald Trump
If someone asked you just how educated a United States president should be, you might respond that you'd like a candidate who has years of experience in business or government. But two new investigations from Mashoid and The Boston Globe suggest that education isn't as important in political elections as you might think. And even if candidates have been highly educated, using advanced language in speeches doesn't advance their campaigns. The reports show that simpler language actually resonates more with Americans. Donald Trump delivers speeches at a fourth-grade level, according to Mashoid, and to great effect — he's still the GOP frontrunner.
For its investigation, The Boston Globe used the Flesch-Kincaid readability test to analyze speeches delivered by 19 presidential candidates, both Democratic and Republican. The test took both word choice and sentence structure into account when "grading" the candidates. The Globe's algorithm found that the candidates who spoke at the highest levels were Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore — two candidates who are struggling to resonate with voters.
Mashoid's investigation yielded similar results — the blog analyzed the average length and complexity of words used in candidates' speeches, and Trump used the shortest, least complex words of any presidential candidate.
The Globe's Matt Viser notes that by using simpler language, Trump is "speaking at a level easily understood by people at the lower end of the education spectrum," allowing him to connect with "a broader swath of voters, in an era of 140-character Twitter tweets and 10-second television sound bites." Americans don't necessarily want a reminder of a politician's education — they want candidates who can connect with them. And it's not just Trump. Ben Carson, whom The Globe notes is at second place in Republican polls, delivers speeches that fall at a sixth-grade level, even though he's a neurosurgeon.
So where do the Democratic presidential candidates' speeches fall on the scale? Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders topped both Mashoid's and the Globe's lists. Mashoid found that Sanders used longer and more complex words than any Democratic presidential candidate. And according to The Globe, Sanders' speeches are at a tenth-grade level, while former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, and former governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee all speak at about an eighth-grade level. Clinton's use of complex words, meanwhile, fell lower on Mashoid's list than Sanders' and O'Malley's.
If the two reports are any indication, the complexity levels of candidates' speeches are less an indication of their intelligence than they are of their ability to relate to voters. Trump and Clinton know what voters want to hear, and how to effectively reach their constituents. In the age of social media, it's hard to keep people's attention — but Trump and Clinton know how to use that to their advantage.
Image: Courtesy of Mashoid