Ranking Congressmen and Senators with the Flesch-Kincaid test to use of longer words and longer sentences

The Sunlight Foundation has provided its data available here. A higher score doesn't necessarily mean that someone is smarter, as politicians may be speaking so that their constituents or at least a greater percentage of their constituents understand what they are saying. It might be interesting to see how their Flesch-Kincaid scores line up with the education levels of their congressional districts.
Overall, the complexity of speech in the Congressional Record has declined steadily since 2005, with the drop among Republicans slightly outpacing that for Democrats (see Figure 1). Through April 25, 2012, this year's Congressional Record clocks in at a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005.

Between 1996 and 2005, Republicans overall spoke at consistently 2/10ths of a grade level higher than Democrats, except for 2001, when a rare moment of national unity also seems to have extended to speaking at the same grade level. But following 2005, something happened, and Congressional speech has been on the decline since. For Republicans as a whole, the decline was from an 11.6 grade level to a 10.3 grade level in 2011 (up slightly to 10.4 in 2012 so far). For Democrats, it was a decline from 11.4 to 10.6 in 2011 (also up slightly to 10.8 in 2012 so far.) . . .

One possibility for the changing scores may simply be whether someone is in the majority. For example, the word "compromise" is apparently a word that a politician gains points from using. I assume that someone in the majority is more likely to use that word. Other words such as "compassion," "reconciliation," "inevitable," and "lobbyist" are also big point words. It would be interesting to see if the type of language used varies with whether one is in the majority or minority. As noted in the quote above, the party in power seems to get higher Flesch-Kincaid scores.



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