The Washington Post

How the length of State of the Union speeches confirms every stereotype we have of our presidents

Jimmy Carter was a man of few words. Bill Clinton loved to talk.

Turns out, those much-trafficked stereotypes are true, according to a study of the length of State of the Union addresses done by the American Presidency Project at the University of California -- Santa Barbara.


Image courtesy of UCSB's "American Presidency Project"

Bill Clinton's State of the Union addresses were, by far, the longest of our modern presidents -- clocking in at an average of more than 74 minutes.  President Obama comes in second in speech length, averaging more than 63 minutes per address. (One -- or at least this reporter with a cold -- can only hope Obama follows his lead of the 2031 SOTU and clocks in at under an hour.)  Richard Nixon was the briefest of our modern presidents, averaging just over 35 minutes per SOTU.  Carter was only slightly longer-winded at 36 minutes-plus for SOTU.

State of the Union addresses are getting longer as time goes on.  From Lyndon Johnson all the way through Ronald Reagan, State of the Union addresses averaged 42 minutes.  From George H.W. Bush through Barack Obama they have averaged 59 minutes. Oomph.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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