The Presidential Debate Decorder


After Obama's initial performance in the first debate, which was widely panned by his supporters and critics, the adjustments that he made to his delivery were evident, Quantified Impressions analysts found.

Obama's comments clocked in at 9.4 on the Flesch-Kinkaid readability test, which measures the ease with which readers understand what they read or hear.

"Being above a nine really makes someone sound professorial," Quantified Impressions president Zandan said, adding that audiences his firm has tested are most comfortable understanding a 6.5 level.

By the second debate, Obama had moderated his Flesch-Kinkaid level to 7.2 and, finally, to 8.6 in the third debate. Romney's final speech was rated a 7.0 on that scale and an average of 6.9 across the three debates.

"Obama has dramatically changed the speaking level of his words between the debates," Zandan said.

When it comes to the candidates' emotional expression, Purdue's Kowal said both candidates have displayed differing levels of comfort across the debates.

Faced with a foreign policy subject matter, Obama displayed a level of comfort he lacked in the first two debates, and Romney displayed more comfort on the subject of the economy, Kowal said.

Despite the differences in the way the candidates communicate (Romney speaks more quickly than Obama, but uses words that are easier to understand), by nearly every measure Obama and Romney are considered to be among the best in terms of their communication skills, Zandan said.

"The interesting thing is that the two candidates are really at this point at the top of their game and are extremely effective communicators," Zandan said. "Both of these guys are actually exceeding the benchmarks that the best have set."

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