Note: This post is provided without political slant or intention. It is meant only as a statistical analysis of the texts, as provided to media outlets, of the first inaugural addresses from Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States and Barack H. Obama, the 44th President of the United States.
Inaugural addresses are the first chance a sitting President has to speak to the people he begins serving after the oath of office is taken. From a dais on the steps of the United States Capitol, President Donald J. Trump delivered a 16-minute speech containing 1,433 words compared to the 19-minute speech given by President Barack Obama in 2009 which contained 2,395 words.
Section Note: The following word clouds were created using official transcripts of each speech as provided to the media (Trump source link, Obama source link). Often these transcripts include the word “applause” to note where long periods of applause either occurred or were planned. For the sake of accuracy as to the speeches themselves, I have removed that word from the data set. All other words are presented without edit. Word Clouds were created using free online tool at http://www.wordclouds.com/ because I’m on paternity leave and don’t have access to anything else right now. UPDATE 1/20/17 3:33 PM PST : For the record, I hate word clouds and contemplated literally just adding an Excel table with counts of words, but people love word clouds. Why? We’ll never know.
The following is the word cloud from President Trump’s 2017 inaugural address:
The following is the word cloud from President Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural address:
The top words should come to no surprise to anyone given the two Presidents’ campaign messages leading into their first terms, with President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and President Obama’s “Yes We Can” messaging mixing with the words you would expect – American, American, nation, country etc.
President Trump’s address contained 470 unique words, while President Obama’s 2009 address contained 807 unique words.
Readability and Relative Grade Level
Section note: These scores were created by analyzing the text provided for each speech using the Microsoft Word Readability tool, which creates a score for the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level indices. For more information about these indices, including how they are calculated, click the link for the readability tool
Using the Microsoft Word Readability tool, which creates a score for the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level indices, the speeches were scored as following:
- Flesch Reading Ease: 62.4
- Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 8th Grade (8.3)
- Obama (2009)
- Flesch Reading Ease: 67.5
- Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 8th Grade (8.1)
Both speeches come near the bands generally accepted as “target” zones for mass-circulated documents and speeches, with 60-70 being the target for Flesch Reading Ease and 7.0 to 8.0 being the target for Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.
Bonus Content: Presidential Inaugural Speech Length Over Time
The chart below shows the length of Presidential Inaugural speeches from George Washington to Donald Trump, (source link):
I understand this is hard to read – for ease of understanding, I’ve added a live link to the Excel below.
You will notice the chart does not include inaugural addresses from each President of the United States. This is because a number of Presidents did not give inaugural addresses as their rise to the office was due to the line of succession. Those include:
- John Tyler who succeeded after the death of William Henry Harrison
- Millard Fillmore who succeeded after the death of Zachary Taylor
- Andrew Johnson who succeeded after the death of Abraham Lincoln
- Chester Arthur who succeeded after the death of James Garfield
- Gerald Ford who succeeded after the resignation of Richard Nixon
Image Note: The image used at the top of the page is from President Obama’s second Inauguration.