For the state of the union, graphic artist Maxwell and I wanted to show the data behind the speech.
We based the graphic on the Constitution’s mandate for the address: that the president explain the state of the country while also recommending a political agenda to Congress. I then set out to find what data could represent both of those requirements. We chose milestones to compare speeches: 2012 (the graphic ran just before the 2013 speech), the previous year’s speech and the speeches from 50, 100 and 200 years ago.
For the actual state of America, we chose a few factors: legal immigration (represents transitioning times for the country and its policies), military size (could represent wars and U.S. policy), unemployment (an economic measure), people per square mile (to show the country’s growth over time) and the national debt (an economic and policy measure).
For the actual speech, I first found the text of each speech and found the most common words. I then color-coded the words that likely represented domestic or foreign policy. We included the first sentence of each speech to further show change over time.
Finally, we included a timeline on the page of all the speeches, showing the length, mediums and target grade level of each. Notes along the timeline point out interesting milestones and changes in the speech.