State of the Union - Words vs. Actions

Does the State of the Union reflect legislative priorities?

The following is an analysis comparing the topics discussed in each State of the Union, as measured against legislation introduced by the Congress within the same calendar year. Data analysis was conducted using FiscalNote's congressional analysis, mapped to the topics discussed in each speech, or mentioned in each bill, as classified by our AI.

The y-axis (vertical) showcases how much the topic was referenced by legislation; on the x-axis (horizontal), how much the topic was referenced in the State of the Union. Points in the top right corner indicate high focus in both the State of the Union and legislation, meaning priorities between the President's agenda and Congress were in sync for that issue. Hover over or click on any plot or chart for more detailed information.

Note: Addresses to a joint session of Congress are included in the analysis of State of the Union Address, as the speeches are used to lay out a newly inaugurated president's legislative agenda.
Legend explaining how to read the topics subplots below. Each axis represents increasing popularity of a topic in legislation (y-axis) or the State of the Union (SOTU) (x-axis). Topics in the upper right and lower left quadrants represent alignment in priorities in the State of the Union and in legislation; upper right meaning high priority for the President and Congress, lower left meaning low priority for both. Topics in the upper left and lower right quadrants represent areas where Congress and the President are not aligned on priorities; upper left represents Congressional priorities, and lower right represents priorities in the State of the Union.

By President

While International Relations typically ranks high across all years, you can see how the topics in State of the Union highlight events from the previous year. For example:

  • Health Services and Firearms are high for Biden in 2021, following the beginning of the pandemic in 2020;
  • Finance & Economics and Banking rank high for Obama in 2009 following the financial crisis in 2008;
  • Homeland Security and Terrorism are featured for Bush in 2002, following the events of 9/11 in 2001.

By Policy Area

The plots below showcase how popular a topic was across all years, split out by policy subject areas.

  • Topics from Foreign Affairs and National Security & Defense rank high, reflecting the historical role of the president in international relations and the military.
  • As noted in the top right quadrant of each plot, topics that rank high in the State of the Union as well as legislative focus include Banking (Finance & Economics) and Transport Infrastructure (Infrastructure).
  • Outliers towards the bottom right highlight topics that are popular in the State of the Union, but not in legislation, such as Performance Based Funding (Education), Bail Bonds (Crime), and Gun Safety (Law Enforcement & Public Safety).