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The State of the Union in Trump’s Words: American, Great and Tax

Analysis of how his speech stacks up to his past big addresses

President Donald Trump speaks during the joint session of Congress to deliver his State of the Union Address in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
President Donald Trump speaks during the joint session of Congress to deliver his State of the Union Address in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

During his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Donald Trump continued the nationalist theme he emphasized during his campaign, mentioning America or some variation 79 times. His other top mentions were the words “great” (26 times) and “tax” (15 times).

Here’s a look at the topics that Trump covered and how his use of certain words compares to his previous major speeches as a president and a candidate, and to President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union in 2016.

SOTU Word analysis-01

Trump touted the tax bill passed by Congress in December, mentioning it more than other domestic issues such as police, education or even plans for an infrastructure overhaul. As a candidate, Trump promised to prop up the coal and energy industries, but all of his formal speeches referenced energy items less than Obama’s 14 mentions in his final address to Congress. The difference? Obama often talked about “clean energy,” Trump mentioned so-called clean coal in his State of the Union.

Aside from a mention of the first lady and a shoutout to “strong moms,” the only time the president mentioned women during his first State of the Union speech was in reference to a pregnant, heroin-addicted woman whose child was adopted by a husband and wife in attendance Tuesday.

SOTU Word analysis-02

On Tuesday, Trump remarked on jobs and manufacturing with the same regularity as in his previous oratories, a similar amount to Obama’s last SOTU. 

“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction,” Obama said in his January 2016 address. In July of that year, Trump made nearly the opposite claim about the state of the nation’s economy as he accepted the Republican nomination at the convention.

Notably, Trump gave less emphasis to wealth and prosperity this week.

SOTU Word analysis-03

Trump speckled his speech Tuesday with national references and more mentions of some variation of “America” than the other addresses analyzed for this piece. While announcing his candidacy, Trump painted a dark picture of the nation and ended the speech declaring “the American dream is dead.” But, he said, if elected, he’d bring the country back “bigger and better and stronger than ever before.”

At the start of his SOTU on Tuesday, the president claimed the country had endured numerous tests that “forged new American heroes to remind us who we are and show us what we can be.”

By contrast, during his last address to Congress in 2016, Obama typically used the word “American” as a way to speak to citizens of the country or to make a case for globalism: “American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world.”

SOTU Word analysis-04

Trump mentioned politics and Congress 17 times on Tuesday. The president made several specific requests, including for an infrastructure bill, immigration legislation and military funding. During his final State of the Union, Obama mentioned Congress only five times and each party only once. Most of those mentions were used as a call to action for voters to get involved in politics.

SOTU Word analysis-05

Trump maintained a focus Tuesday on immigration, border security and terrorism, with one reference of building a “great wall” on the Mexican border and fewer mentions of specific conflict countries. In his early speeches, Trump said that the country was propping up military action in the Middle East as Americans leave their equipment behind.

“You remember Obama a year ago,” he said at his 2015 campaign announcement. “Yemen was a great victory. Two weeks later, the place was blown up. Everybody got out and they kept our equipment.”

SOTU Word analysis-06

This week, Trump focused less on other countries and more on the U.S., with little or no mention of trade, China or tariffs.

Word count totals were gathered using an online word counter tool. Roll Call analyzed the results for references to key words.

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