Previewing Obama’s State of the Union address (in four infographics)

February 8, 2013

President Obama will deliver the first State of the Union address of his second term on Tuesday.

As we all prepare for the speech, though, it's worthwhile to look at Obama's past speeches and the environment in which he will deliver his next one. Below are four infographics that should serve as good reference points for the week ahead.

First, from The Washington Post's great graphics team: a breakdown of how long Obama has spent on various key themes in his four previous addresses. Note the relative constancy of both the time devoted to the themes and the order in which he has dealt with them; there's certainly a formula at work here (start with the economy, then education, then the deficit...), and it's likely to be repeated.


The next chart shows much the same thing but breaks it down by issue rather than by year. With the exception of 2011 (which was delivered soon after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson), the economy has been the overwhelming focus.


This one, from the National Post, compares the verbiage used in Obama's speeches to those used in George W. Bush's speeches.

A couple notables:

1) Obama talks about the debt and deficit more than Bush ever did

2) Bush talked about "hope" more than Obama does, despite it having been Obama's campaign slogan.

3) Obama has rarely mentioned the environment, but he included it in his inaugural address last month. Will he make that a key theme this time?


And finally, a graphic from the National Journal that shows the state of play for Obama's State of the Union speeches -- up through today -- both in the president's approval rating and in the state of the economy.

(The chart is broken up by calendar year rather than SOTU speech date, but the economic picture at the beginning of each year is a pretty good approximation for the environment in which Obama delivered the speech.)


Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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