For the seventh time, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the nation Tuesday night in the annual State of the Union address. See how the terms he’s used has changed year by year.
We analyzed the tens of thousands of words from of all of Obama’s State of the Unions, finding nearly 4,500 unique words. We pulled out neutral words such as “the” and “and”, and then narrowed the parameters to words used at least five times over the course of the seven addresses, to compile a list of 170 words that we compared year over year.
The result is a look at the ebb and flow of the language the president has used, and grouping related terms together showed interesting results.
For example, while the bulk of Obama’s 2015 speech focused on the economy, he used less economic-related words than he did in 2012. In 2011 Obama used more education-related words than in 2015. (See the note below for more detail on how we grouped related words.)
SOTU speech: topic-related words said over time
This is what all 170 words we analyzed looks like over the seven SOTUs. The table is sortable by clicking or tapping the top of each column.
Note: While some words will have overlap, we tried to stick with the most appropriate for each category. For example, while the phrase “community college” refers to education, the word “community” may not. Given “community college” couldn’t be said without also saying “college”, we used just “college” as part of our sample of the education-related terms. We stuck to the words used at least five times total between 2009-2015 to get a more apples-to-apples comparison and to smooth out anomalies. While not perfect, it gives us a good sampling of how the language has changed. The following words were used for each year to make the following categories.
Foreign policy: Afghan, Afghanistan, Africa, Asia, borders, China, defend, defense, Europe, Iran, Iraq, Iraqi, military, nuclear, oil, al-Qaida, Russia, security, Syria, terrorist, terrorists, war wars, weapons.
Education: college, colleges, educate, education, graduate, math, school, schools, teacher, teachers, teaching, universities, college, colleges.
Immigration: borders, immigrants, immigration.
Climate: carbon, climate, pollution.
Economy: work, worker, workers, workforce, job, jobs, economy, pay, paycheck, paying, business, businesses, tax, taxes, taxpayer, taxpayers, wage, wages, companies, company, afford, affordable, industries, industry, loans, rich, budget, employees, employers, energy, income, incomes, manufacturer, manufacturers, manufacturing, mortgage, mortgages, retirement, bank, banks, corporate, corporations, entrepreneur, entrepreneurs, financial, lobbyists, poverty, unemployed, unemployment, employment, factories, factory, prosperity.