How ‘State of the Union’ Speeches Changed Over Time

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Tonight President Obama gives his third “State of the Union” speech, an address that dates back to George Washington. Over time, the length and format of the speech has changed, according to the The American Presidency Project

Bubbles in this view are sized the represent the number of speeches given by each president, with colors representing format (purple = oral; green = written).

This shows the total number of words used during each president’s tenure in both formats. Teddy Roosevelt needed 174,000 to deliver his thoughts, leading all presidents. 

A better view is to look at the average number of words used, given that presidents have had varying term lengths over time. Jimmy Carter led all presidents, with an average of 33,000 words, though that’s skewed by one long written address as he left office.

Bill Clinton had the longest average oral speeches since 1966, at 1 hour and 14 minutes. Richard Nixon gave the shortest speeches, averaging about 35 minutes. 

View interactive version | Download data

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