On Presidents and Priorities: Distilling the Numbers out of the State of the Nation Address

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The President’s annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) is a strong indicator of an administration’s priorities and accomplishments, but how do we compare across presidents? We can distill the SONA into numbers and count instances of national issues mentioned in the speech to find out and compare. You can also explore the speeches yourself using an interactive SONA word counter.

TJ Palanca https://www.twitter.com/tjpalanca
02-18-2014
We can distill the numbers out of speeches to determine what our commanders-in-chief have prioritized over the years of the Philippine democracy. In this photo, President Benigno Aquino III, the current president of the Philippines, delivers his second State of the Nation Address in 2011. (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Figure 1: We can distill the numbers out of speeches to determine what our commanders-in-chief have prioritized over the years of the Philippine democracy. In this photo, President Benigno Aquino III, the current president of the Philippines, delivers his second State of the Nation Address in 2011. (PUBLIC DOMAIN)

History through the President’s Words

I got this great data gathering idea from an awesome article on the Washington Post, which analyzed the State of the Union Addresses of the various US presidents to determine hot-button issues in the United States. I decided to apply the same methodology to the Philippines and extract word counts out of the various State of the Nation Addresses, from Cory Aquino in 1987 to Noynoy Aquino in 2013.

Length of Speech and the Riffraff Index

First, let’s take a look at a very basic statistic - the length of the speech in words - as well as something I constructed called the Riffraff Index, which is the percentage of words in the SONA that do not specifically relate to any national issue. What these words are, and how they were selected are at the next section.