"Is Congress getting dumber, or just more plainspoken?"
It's a question posed by a new study released this week that found the U.S. Congress speaks at nearly a full grade lower than it did seven years ago, with Republicans on average using more simple speech than Democrats.
Members of Congress currently speak at a 10.6 grade level, according to a Sunlight Foundation analysis, down from a high of 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level and the Declaration of Independence at 15.1, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
The analysis reviewed the vocabulary and sentence structure of what members of Congress are saying on the floor, and used the Flesch-Kincaid test to conduct the analysis, which calculates higher-grade levels with longer words and longer sentences.
The study found that it is generally the most moderate members of both parties who speak at the highest-grade levels, and the most extreme members who speak at the lowest grade levels — a pattern most pronounced among freshmen and sophomore members.
Prior to 2005, Republicans on average spoke at a higher-grade level than Democrats. However, since then, Democrats have spoken on average at a higher-grade level than Republicans, according to the study.
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) who the study revealed scored 8.02, the second lowest grade level of all lawmakers since 1996, told NPR's Tamara Keith that his mother might be embarrassed, "but I'm glad to know I'm not obfuscating our challenges with words that are too complicated."
The study ranked the lawmakers with the highest- and lowest-record grade levels:
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
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
by RTT Staff Writer
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