DATA OF THE UNION

The most frequently used words in every State of the Union address

Obsession
Language
Obsession
Language

Barack Obama covered a range of topics in his final State of the Union speech on Jan. 12. He reminded the American people of his achievements, like the Affordable Care Act and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and rebutted the notion surfaced in the Republican primary debates that the United States military has grown weaker. But when you cut through the rhetoric and political posturing, what did he really focus on? What were the actual words he used the most?

We counted each word in last night’s speech, as well as each word in every State of the Union address ever given, to find the words that were used the most. We filtered out common articles like “the,” “and,” and “or,” as well as many terms that are inherently ubiquitous in the State of the Union, like “United States” and “Americans.” The result gives us a sense of what each president, since 1790, focused on in his State of the Union address.

George Washington

  • 1790 (January): public measures regard
  • 1790 (December): public great means
  • 1791: public important proper
  • 1792: among information law
  • 1793: public peace military
  • 1794: laws militia citizens
  • 1795: Indians public situation
  • 1796: public war time

John Adams

  • 1797: treaty citizens commissioners
  • 1798: France commerce measures
  • 1799: necessary period people
  • 1800: public great commerce

Thomas Jefferson

  • 1801: time peace laid
  • 1802: vessels necessary employed
  • 1803: millions debt citizens
  • 1804: war nations peace
  • 1805: millions time vessels
  • 1806: public necessary time
  • 1807: peace harbors public
  • 1808: millions commerce rights

James Madison

  • 1809: British minister toward
  • 1810: public commerce act
  • 1811: British toward foreign
  • 1812: war British enemy
  • 1813: war British enemy
  • 1814: enemy war great
  • 1815: public millions peace
  • 1816: public Treasury ports

James Monroe

  • 1817: public millions lands
  • 1818: Spain great savages
  • 1819: Spain treaty minister
  • 1820: great public coast
  • 1821: vessels revenue powers
  • 1822: great act war
  • 1823: great post first
  • 1824: great public might

John Quincy Adams

  • 1825: public improvement first
  • 1826: act duties present
  • 1827: public act 1827
  • 1828: great revenue public

Andrew Jackson

  • 1829: public people great
  • 1830: public general people
  • 1831: present citizens treaty
  • 1832: public people present
  • 1833: public duties present
  • 1834: public France present
  • 1835: public French time
  • 1836: public bank people

Martin van Buren

  • 1837: public lands time
  • 1838: public time citizens
  • 1839: public banks present
  • 1840: public people great

John Tyler

  • 1841: public power Treasury
  • 1842: public time Treasury
  • 1843: time Mexico public
  • 1844: great Texas Mexico

James Polk

  • 1845: public duty Mexico
  • 1846: Mexico Texas war
  • 1847: Mexico war public
  • 1848: public people power

Zachary Taylor

  • 1849: treaty recommend California

Millard Fillmore

  • 1850: duty duties power
  • 1851: laws present foreign
  • 1852: foreign public Indians

Franklin Pierce

  • 1853: public present power
  • 1854: present public time
  • 1855: rights Britain public
  • 1856: public citizens law

James Buchanan

  • 1857: people treaty public
  • 1858: citizens people time
  • 1859: power June fiscal
  • 1860: Constitution people power

Abraham Lincoln

  • 1861: labor people capital
  • 1862: people time great
  • 1863: service public naval
  • 1864: war people great

Andrew Johnson

  • 1865: people Constitution power
  • 1866: Constitution people condition
  • 1867: Constitution public law
  • 1868: people war millions

Ulysses S. Grant

  • 1869: people time attention
  • 1870: present right treaty
  • 1871: recommend law citizens
  • 1872: treaty Majesty Great
  • 1873: time amount public
  • 1874: great report currency
  • 1875: time large citizens
  • 1876: time act foreign

Rutherford B. Hayes

  • 1877: public coinage people
  • 1878: public report people
  • 1879: public service present
  • 1880: people service relations

Chester A. Arthur

  • 1881: friendly relations attention
  • 1882: time attention Chile
  • 1883: treaty citizens relations
  • 1884: countries foreign present

Grover Cleveland

  • 1885: law public silver
  • 1886: present people public
  • 1887: tariff duty people
  • 1888: people public June

Benjamin Harrison

  • 1889: law people public
  • 1890: law trade act
  • 1891: law work people
  • 1892: increase great 1892

Grover Cleveland (second term)

  • 1893: time 1893 work
  • 1894: report time present
  • 1895: gold notes Treasury
  • 1896: present service time

William McKinley

  • 1897: gold Spain war
  • 1898: war act Cuba
  • 1899: act officers treaty
  • 1900: people islands 1900

Theodore Roosevelt

  • 1901: great men people
  • 1902: good law people
  • 1903: treaty Panama Isthmus
  • 1904: work great good
  • 1905: law great business
  • 1906: law men people
  • 1907: law public men
  • 1908: great men people

William H. Taft

  • 1909: work great law
  • 1910: commercial China countries
  • 1911: law foreign statute
  • 1912: foreign time law

Woodrow Wilson

  • 1913: people business credit
  • 1914: great people means
  • 1915: present great hundred
  • 1916: necessary action public
  • 1917: war people peace
  • 1918: men war great
  • 1919: conditions labor war
  • 1920: faith war right

Warren Harding

  • 1921: conditions public world
  • 1922: public railway world

Calvin Coolidge

  • 1923: public law people
  • 1924: great public present
  • 1925: court necessary law
  • 1926: present people public
  • 1927: people public being
  • 1928: public present being

Herbert Hoover

  • 1929: public construction time
  • 1930: construction public employment
  • 1931: banks action meet
  • 1932: economic system people

Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • 1934: people work industrial
  • 1935: work people relief
  • 1936: world Nations people
  • 1937: democracy problems modern
  • 1938: business people power
  • 1939: nations income labor
  • 1940: world nations peace
  • 1941: nations war world
  • 1942: war people forces
  • 1943: war production people
  • 1944: war service men
  • 1945: war forces peace

Harry S. Truman

  • 1946: dollars war million
  • 1947: labor program housing
  • 1948: economic world people
  • 1949: people world prosperity
  • 1950: world economic life
  • 1951: free world Soviet
  • 1952: world defense people

Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • 1953: economic policy labor
  • 1953: free world Soviet
  • 1954: program world tax
  • 1955: military nations program
  • 1956: program people legislation
  • 1957: free security world
  • 1958: military world security
  • 1959: world freedom free
  • 1960: nations world World

John F. Kennedy

  • 1961: world economic program
  • 1961: program million 1953
  • 1962: free world strength
  • 1963: world free tax

Lyndon B. Johnson

  • 1964: session public help
  • 1965: help seek propose
  • 1966: Vietnam people tonight
  • 1967: people great Vietnam
  • 1968: billion people budget
  • 1969: think believe hope

Richard Nixon

  • 1970: people peace time
  • 1971: people great open
  • 1972: great meet help
  • 1973: people better resources
  • 1974: peace people energy

Gerald R. Ford

  • 1975: energy world oil
  • 1976: people programs budget
  • 1977: energy people peace

Jimmy Carter

  • 1978: people world inflation
  • 1979: world people nuclear
  • 1980: Soviet world peace
  • 1981: program policy economic

Ronald Reagan

  • 1982: programs tax people
  • 1983: economic spending people
  • 1984: peace people help
  • 1985: freedom tax economy
  • 1986: people work future
  • 1987: people world freedom
  • 1988: freedom world budget

George H.W. Bush

  • 1989: tonight budget future
  • 1990: world time future
  • 1991: world freedom power
  • 1992: people plan world

William J. Clinton

  • 1993: people plan jobs
  • 1994: people health care
  • 1995: people work way
  • 1996: challenge people work
  • 1997: people children world
  • 1998: people help children
  • 1999: support century work
  • 2000: children help work

George W. Bush

  • 2001 (February): budget tax Social
  • 2001 (September): world terrorists terror
  • 2002: security war terror
  • 2003: people weapons world
  • 2004: people help health
  • 2005: Social Security freedom
  • 2006: world people economy
  • 2007: health help people
  • 2008: people Iraq help

Barack Obama

  • 2009: economy plan health
  • 2010: people jobs work
  • 2011: people jobs work
  • 2012: jobs energy tax
  • 2013: jobs people work
  • 2014: help work jobs
  • 2015: people work time
  • 2016: world work people

Notes on methodology: The words displayed are the three with the most frequent occurrences; the leftmost word is the one used the most. Our algorithm counted only single words, which is why phrases like “health care” come up as “health” and “care” for Bill Clinton. Most of the words we filtered out were used frequently in every speech, like “United,” “States,” “America,” “Congress,” “Senate,” “Federal.” To whittle the words down to those that were the most interesting, we further filtered out words like “department,” “commission,” and “administration.”

Correction: Due to an error in our algorithm, this list previously listed Grover Cleveland’s second term under Benjamin Harrison. It also included instances of the word “government,” which were meant to be filtered out.

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