A Little Digital Reading of SOTU

Ok, so not Piers at all, but a little digital quickie on the State of the Union address and responses by the president and a few others. I used the simple text-mining tool Voyant to check out some word frequencies and make a few basic comparisons: To begin, we’ll check out a word cloud of the full transcript of Obama’s speech: SOTUraw What you’ll notice is that most of the words with the highest frequency are, of course, basic words that make our language function: pronouns, conjunctions, articles, prepositions.  In order to filter those out, we choose to “edit stop words” for English and we get a cloud that is more reflective of the substance of the speech: Obama I find it fascinating that the words “new,” “more,” and “America” were some of the top word counts for Obama’s text: chart Joni Ernst’s official GOP response to the State of the Union looks more like this: Ernst While Curt Clawson’s Tea Party Express Response looks a little more like this: Clawson Out of the base word counts, what struck me as interesting were the words “we” versus “they” in each speaker’s top ten words (with the exception of Clawson, who had no “they,” or any variation on it). Here’s Obama’s usage of we versus they.  We also want to remember that his Raw frequencies are going to be much higher by segment (each speech is divided into tenths) because his speech is longer. chart-8 Another interesting feature of Obama’s speech is a lot of “we’ve,” which doesn’t appear in other speakers’ texts, likely because they don’t want to emphasize what “we” have done as a nation, while that is in Obama’s best rhetorical interest. chart-2 Ernst, on the other hand, used a lot of “they,” in an inverse relation to “we.” chart-7 While Clawson had a strange lack of any “they”s at all…


Aside from everyone’s use of pronouns (or “team”), here are some comparisons of who used what words to describe the state of affairs, and when.

For issues of governance: 


On the economy


Note, that Ernst won’t touch the economy, but Clawson takes it on full force.  So I wondered, are there other ways that the speakers are addressing economic issues without using the word?


On the world:


So it seems Obama is the person most concerned with what’s happening outside our borders….unless we consider what other ways the GOP speakers might be thinking about the world.


Finally, the Tea Party: 

No matter what else happens, we can count on the Tea Party speaker to deliver a few keywords in particular that the other speakers don’t even touch.


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