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UPDATED: The State of the Union, by the Numbers

What did you think of the State of the Union?

by Countable | Updated on 2.6.19

UPDATE — February 6, 2019: Last night, President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union speech. As anticipated, he discussed matters of immigration, the economy, and health care.

Indeed, Trump talked about immigration more than any president since Jimmy Carter, according to analysis from our partners at USAFacts, a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative aimed at making government data accessible and understandable. USAFacts has contextualized every State of the Union address since 1980, turning the speeches into data and analyzing the words to see how often topics like healthcare, war, and the economy have been featured each year. They overlaid the results with government data related to the issue.

The graph below shows the frequency with which a president mentioned something related to immigration (the bars), juxtaposed with the number of visas granted at the time (the solid line).

Source: USAFacts

While Trump continued to push for the construction of a wall on the southern border with Mexico, he stopped short of declaring a national emergency to achieve his aim.

Trump devoted less of his speech to the topic of taxes than many had expected, considering that he views last year's tax cuts as a strong success. The graph below shows mentions of taxes (the bars) with the top individual tax rate (the solid line).

Source: USAFacts

Eliminating HIV and AIDS

The president announced a plan to eliminate the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)—the virus that causes Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)—in ten years.

According to USAFacts, the spread of HIV peaked in the mid-1980s, as the U.S. had an estimated 130,400 new cases in both 1984 and 1985. New HIV diagnoses have been on the decline since 2006, largely owing to an increase in testing and the uptake of antiretroviral drugs. In 2017, 38,281 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with HIV.

Death rates have also been declining since their peak, as the graph below shows.

Source: USAFacts

Countable's original article from February 5, 2019 is below.


  • Tonight at 9:00 p.m. EST, President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his second State of the Union address. Watch it and comment live here.
  • The speech was originally scheduled for last month, but was postponed because of the partial government shutdown.

SOTU in Context

This wasn’t the first time in history the State of the Union was delayed: President Reagan moved the 1986 address in the wake of the Challenger disaster.

Speaking of historical context, our partners at USAFacts—a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic initiative aimed at making government data accessible and understandable—have contextualized every State of the Union address from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump, turning the speeches into data and analyzing the words of each address to see how often topics like healthcare, war, and the economy have been featured each year.

Readers will note that USAFacts shows two years of speeches for Trump already. This reflects his 2017 address to a joint session of Congress, which is not technically a State of the Union address but still serves much of the same role as a gauge of a president’s policy priorities.

According to USAFacts:

“President Trump focused on immigration in his first two speeches, focusing on immigration enforcement and border security as well as plans to shift legal immigration toward a merit-based system. President George W. Bush also had parts of speeches focus on border security and immigration reform in his final years as president.”

USAFacts created a fascinating data visualization tool to show how a president’s mention of a topic lined up with relevant data at the time. For instance, the graph below shows the frequency with which a president mentioned something related to immigration (the bars), juxtaposed with the actual number of undocumented people in the country at the time (the solid line). Users can also toggle to see the chart with data on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, border patrol agents, and number of visas issued.

Source: USAFacts

There have been reports that Trump will discuss immigration in his speech tonight.

This year, Trump is also expected to announce a plan to stop HIV transmission by 2030. The USAFacts data show that discussion of health care in State of the Union addresses has varied significantly over time, from practically no mentions during the Reagan era to 31 references during Bill Clinton’s unsuccessful push for healthcare reform. George W. Bush’s presidency began with a promise to double Medicare’s budget and explore tax credits to help the uninsured find coverage, while Barack Obama’s first address promised more substantial change, laying the groundwork for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Trump’s 2017 address outlined a plan to repeal and replace the ACA. That plan was ultimately unsuccessful, but the president has continued to focus on health care reform, and is likely to take up the issue tonight.

The graph below shows mentions of health care in States of the Union (the bars) alongside health care expenditures as a percentage of gross domestic product (the solid line). Users can also see the graph with metrics on insurance coverage, both public and private.

Source: USAFacts

It seems likely that Trump will address economic matters tonight, even though his 2017 and 2018 speeches made scant reference to the economy itself. Those speeches did, however, make numerous references to taxes, trade, and jobs. Historically, almost every State of the Union has focused on the economy, from Reagan’s 1983 warnings about inflation to Clinton’s 1993 promise to “make our economy thrive again” to George W. Bush’s 2001 call to keep government spending in line with economic growth. The economy was also a central focus of Obama’s first State of the Union.

Many observers expect Trump to focus on the economy as a strong suit in his presidency. The Hill notes:

“The economy is the president’s biggest selling point. The January jobs report and uptick in the market infuse new optimism into his message. If he can announce some major breakthrough in trade negotiations with China, the one fly in the economic ointment, he can hit another home run.”

The New York Times echoes the sentiment:

“Mr. Trump will most likely talk about a robust economy, a low rate of unemployment, a tax cut he credits with spurring growth and his push to roll back federal regulations on business. Many economists say that the tax cut provided only a temporary stimulus, but few can argue with the continued growth in jobs, now at 100 straight months, or the unemployment rate, which was 4 percent in January.”

The graph below shows historical mentions of the economy (the bars) alongside the performance of the S&P500 stock index (the solid line).

Source: USAFacts

USAFacts will update its website to reflect Trump’s speech tonight, and we’ll bring the latest to you here.

What do you think?

What topics do you hope to hear the president address tonight? Tell your reps what you think, then share your thoughts below.

—Sara E. Murphy

(Photo Credit: Riordan KJ / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(138)
  • Dicr
    02/05/2019
    ···

    Boycott the lies. I’d rather watch an Andy Griffith rerun than listening to more Trump lies. He only speaks to his base anyway.

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  • Daryl
    02/05/2019
    ···

    I won’t be watching. All he does is lie. Let’s all watch Stacey Abrams and give her the highest ratings.

    Like (69)
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  • Robert
    02/05/2019
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    Donnie talking about national unity will be like a turd talking about perfume. It won't work. It will STINK to high heaven!

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  • Chris
    02/05/2019
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    The president will lie, Republicans will cheer. Real-time fact-checking will prove that Trump is lying; his supporters will not care. The only question is, will they be the same old debunked lies, or will he make up new “alternative facts”?

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  • Raymond
    02/05/2019
    ···

    At 8 o’clock tonight I will be watching Kansas Jayhawks play against Kansas State cats. I am not about to watch the State of Union lies from the president who can’t tell the truth.

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  • Alexander
    02/05/2019
    ···

    I'll be too busy working a job that barely supports me, because trump and his ilk refuse to raise the minimum wage.

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  • Marizzapan
    02/05/2019
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    The only part of the SOTU I am eagerly looking forward to is Stacey Abram's Democratic rebuttal. Because then I know I will definitely be getting the coherent truth.

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  • J. scott
    02/05/2019
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    I will not watch the state of the union tonight as my president has no credibility whatsoever. I don’t wish to hear his lying 🤥, bloviating, bullying, and juvenile performance. I see it as a total waste of time I’ll rely on the press to replay and dissect what he has to say. I am not a Fox News watcher so it will likely prove somewhat accurate.

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  • David
    02/05/2019
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    What I would like to hear is some honesty from Trump. Since that is not possible, count the number of breaths he takes, multiply by 7 and you have a close estimate of the number of lies he will have told in that time. I don’t plan on watching him or listening to him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Letters and Papers from Prison” is much more relevant.

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  • Mica
    02/05/2019
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    I am not interested in listening to the lies and exaggeration and made up stories about the border and everything else Trump will lie about. Just not interested. Republicans have really shown their colors this year and absolutely no back bone.

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  • Barbara
    02/05/2019
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    If trump’s mouth is open he is lying. I will not watch the treasonous trump’s TREASONOUS speech.

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  • Gloria
    02/05/2019
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    For the first time in years, I won’t watch. Will all be lies and braggadocio!

    Like (23)
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  • DrCindyBean
    02/05/2019
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    Only thing I want to hear from trump is a guilty plea and hear the prison door clang shut after he’s in his prison cell.

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  • Margaret
    02/05/2019
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    UNLESS HE PLANS TO INFORM THE COUNTRY OF HIS RESIGNATION ..... THEN WE THE PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO LISTEN TO THE LIES AND THE ALTERNATIVE FACTS SPEWING OUT OF THE CRIMINAL TRAITOR IN CHIEF #45 !!!!

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  • Stephen
    02/06/2019
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    To anyone who didn’t watch the SOTU speech and specifically to the poster who claimed Trump’s detractors just hate but can’t site any lies the man has told, I’ll give 5 he told in the 1 hour and 20 minutes his lips were moving. TRUMP, describing progress over the last two years: “Nearly 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps.” LIE. (Only when you add together the people going off food stamps under both Trump AND Obama, will arrive at the 5 million figure). TRUMP: “African-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American unemployment have all reached their lowest levels ever recorded.” LIE. (It DID under Obama and even a year ago, when minority unemployment hit 5.9%. But now (Jan. 2019) it’s back up to 6.8%). TRUMP: “Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery.” BIG LIE. (He’s pulling this right out of his substantial ass. There’s no evidence to support these allegations). TRUMP: “In just over two years since the election, we have launched an unprecedented economic boom — a boom that has rarely been seen before. There’s been nothing like it. ... An economic miracle is taking place in the United States.” LIE. (The economy is healthy but not nearly one of the best in U.S. history). TRUMP: “Already, as a result of my administration’s efforts, in 2018 drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years.” LIE. (Drug prices are still rising).

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  • Richard
    02/06/2019
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    I look forward to hearing from our great President Trump at the State of the Union address tonight. I expect the belligerent children like the unprofessional Maxine Watters and her fellows morons who only sow hatred and disrespect for their fellow Americans with opposing views will not be present. As a black American woman who was raised to the office she currently holds, she defiles its purpose and fulfills the stereotype of her race and gender as dumb and ignorant. I’m so disappointed in the new young Senators who have no clue about our great country’s history and it’s culture. They don’t bother to assimilate themselves but rather cause more divisiveness with their hate based ignorant rhetoric. This country will soon be as dysfunctional as other socialist based government countries at the pace we are going. I hope my Florida Representatives speak out against these communists or they may find themselves losing rather than gaining votes at their next election.

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  • Dave
    02/05/2019
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    President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver his second State of the Union address. The last was a clown show, this will be a circus act!

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  • Carol
    02/05/2019
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    I would like the president to support the bipartisan group working to fund DHS. I would like him to realize his monument is unnecessary. I would like him to support health care for those who need it. I would like him to promise to protect our planet from his administration’s horrible environmental policies. I would like him to follow the advice of his intelligence officers. Fat Chance! #votethemout #impeachnow

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  • James
    02/05/2019
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    The President’s numbers Add Up! The Left does not know reality!

    Like (13)
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  • Arnold
    02/05/2019
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    As long as there is people like the prior posts, unity can not happen.

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