Palin speaks at higher grade level than Biden?

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Elections are full of surprises.

Take John McCain's recent suspension of his campaign, for example.  Or the surprise pick of Sarah Palin to be his running mate.  Or the John Edwards affair.  Or Joe Biden criticizing his own campaign for a negative ad on McCain (oh yeah, he took that back).

For some, a study showing Sarah Palin spoke at a higher grade level than Joe Biden in Thursday night's debate, will come as a surprise.

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Grade level

CNN is reporting that a language monitoring service concluded that Palin's remarks on Thursday were ranked at a higher grade level than Joe Biden's.  She spoke at between a 9th and 10th grade level while Joe Biden spoke at about an eighth grade level.

The only real reason this makes any news, of course, is because of the trouncing Palin received following her disastrous interview with Katie Couric.  Following the series of interviews, questions about Palin's intelligence were raised throughout the media free world.

With her performance on Thursday night widely reviewed as positive and if she continues to have more favorable outings with the press, the story will be less on her abilities and more on the top of the ticket.

Palin VS Biden

The study also shows that both candidates spoke around the same number of words.  Palin spoke 5,235 words - of which the word "maverick" was roughly 5,000 of those.

While Biden uttered some 5,492 words, which is impressive considering that in prior debates that's the length of one sentence.

Other results of the study show that they scored evenly on the numbers of letters per word used (4.4 letters each) and they drew a statistical tie on the amount of sentences per paragraph - 2.7  for Biden and 2.6 for Palin.

In terms of ease of reading, the remarks matched up closely as well with Biden scoring a 66.7 and Palin scoring a 62.4.  The study says a 100 is the easiest to read.

Easier to understand

But a higher grade level doesn't mean what you're saying is understandable.  CNN brings up a Palin sentence toward the end of the debate.

"What I would do, also, if that were ever to happen, though, is to continue the good work he is so committed to of putting government back on the side of the people and get rid of the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in Washington," Palin said.

The firm grades that sentence at a super doctorate level giving it an 18.3 grade.

"When she said it, it sounded good, but on paper it's a completely different animal," said the President of the Global Language Monitor. "It's like, what is that?"

Joe Biden

As for Joe Biden, the firm graded the following sentence at the 15th grade level:

"The middle class under John McCain's tax proposal, 100 million families, middle-class families, households to be precise, they got not a single change; they got not a single break in taxes."

In reviewing that sentence the firm's president seemed to be impressed by Biden's restraint.

"In a typical Joe Biden thing, this sentence would serve as a launching point to even more complex and convoluted statements," he said.

We're smarter than you

So are conservatives jumping on this study saying, "Palin is smarter than Biden?"  Not really.  Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air discounts it as meaningless.

Reading level was and is calculated using a calculation of average numbers for sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and syllables per word.
This analysis just shows that Palin used a somewhat higher ratio in this calculation than Biden.  That doesn’t necessarily make her a better communicator, not even if people ignore content altogether.
So while this gives Palin supporters a reason to crow about her trouncing Biden’s supposed intellect, it’s really meaningless, especially with the slight gap noted by CNN.  They’re better off reviewing Biden’s gaffes, which is a much more abundant resource.

Past politicians

As a point of reference the firm ranked other politicians in past debates as well and puts Abraham Lincoln at the top of their list speaking at just over an 11th grade level.  Joe Lieberman was next in line at about 10th grade.  While at the bottom of the heap is Ross Perot at a sixth grade level.

President George W. Bush spoke at a 7th grade level in his prior debates while Ronald Reagan came just short of 10th grade with a 9.8 rating.

How'd they figure it?

The firm says they used a modified Flesch-Kincaid formulation for their study.  Oh yeah, that formula.  Although regular readers of The Vote would know instantly what that formula is, for newcomers we'll provide it for you (and of course we didn't Google it.)

0.39 x Average No. of words in sentences + 11.8 x Average No. of syllables per word - 15.59.

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