Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Congress's vocabulary falls a full grade level in seven years

from BoingBoing:
Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez,

The U.S. Congress speaks at nearly a full grade level lower than it did seven years ago, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis. Using the CapitolWords.org website -- which features the most popular words and phrases in the Congressional Record since 1996 -- Sunlight reviewed the vocabulary and sentence structure of what members of Congress are saying.

Today's Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from a high of 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 Flesch-Kincaid test was used to conduct the analysis, which equates higher-grade levels with longer words and longer sentences.

A complete database of how each member in the current Congress ranks in the analysis is available.

The analysis, written by Senior Fellow Lee Drutman in collaboration with Software Developer Dan Drinkard, is broken into three parts on the Sunlight blog:

* Summary and 'report card' infographic

* Full analysis and complete methodology

* Congressional use of top SAT vocabulary words

Taking into account the complete Congressional Record since 1996, we rank the lawmakers with the highest- and lowest-record grade levels.

Top Five
Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-CA) -- 16.01
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) -- 14.94
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) -- 14.19
Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI) -- 14.19
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) -- 14.18

Bottom Five
Rep. John Mulvaney (R-SC) -- 7.95
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) -- 8.02
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) -- 8.04
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) -- 8.09
Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) -- 8.13

Is Congress getting dumber, or just more plainspoken?

(Thanks, Nicko!)


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