That leaves us with one candidate speaking at a high school level, another speaking for elementary schoolers — and everybody else clustered in middle school. And these middle schoolers include a former major corporate CEO and a former neurosurgeon.
Easy speech. Small sentences. Short words. No big words. That's the key.
At future debates, expect to hear things like this:
"This country is in big trouble. We don't win anymore. We lose to China."
"We'll find solutions. And the world will respect us. They will respect us like never before."
Here's why: Complicated speech doesn't necessarily help anybody in the polls. There is no value in being over people's heads, especially if you are trying to win their emotions. As we have described here before, voter support is driven entirely by emotions, not at all by facts.
Political dialogue wasn't always this low. Over time, the level of speech has become simpler. Reports have shown that presidential speeches before 1900 were often graded for a college audience, a level of oratory reached only once since 1950: Richard Nixon's remarks on his re-election in 1972.
An analysis by researchers at the University of Minnesota showed President Barack Obama's first three State of the Union addresses had an average grade level of 8.4, the lowest in the study.
"Each of Obama's three addresses are among only seven of 70 in the modern era that were written shy of a ninth-grade level," the author wrote, "and among the six that have averaged less than 17 words per sentence."
Contrast these grade levels to the Federal Reserve's statement on monetary policy Wednesday. The grade level for that was 17. In other words, one year into graduate school. And of course, there is a pretty clear consensus that Fedspeak is a lot more dense than what you hear out of presidential candidates.