The Commission on Presidential Debates has held three events so far this year, and I wanted to know if our next commander-in-chief (or the next in line) were able to beat out a fifth grader (hello, pop culture references). I sliced and diced the transcripts of each participant (including the moderators and audience) and ran them through a couple of algorithms.
The Flesch–Kincaid readability test and the Gunning fog index are widely recognized methods for determining the education level needed to grasp subject material — in this case the dialogue transcripts of the debates. The numbers shown indicate the grade level one would need to be able to comprehend each respondent.
The results are presented below:
First Presidential Debate (Denver, Colorado)
|Jim Lehrer (moderator)||4.1||8.1|
Vice Presidential Debate (Danville, Kentucky)
|Martha Raddatz (moderator)||4.4||7.9|
Second Presidential Debate (Hempstead, New York)
|Candy Crowley (moderator)||3.1||6.5|
UPDATE: Added the fourth debate (third presidential debate) and overall scores based on D/R, below:
Third Presidential Debate (Boca Raton, Florida)
|Bob Schieffer (moderator)||4.3||7.5|
All Presidential Debates (averaged)
Apparently the moderators are not smarter than fifth graders, and the candidates are barely eking by according to Kincaid standards.
However, it’s interesting to note that the debate audience at the second presidential debate — a town hall format — scored off the charts in smarts compared to all the candidates and moderators.
Maybe we should go ahead and elect one of them.