SOTU Title

2015 State of the Union Address — Text Analytics

I collected tweets about the 2015 State of the Union address [SOTU] in real time from 10am to 2am using the keywords [obama, state of the union, sotu, sotusocial, ernst]. The tweets were analyzed for sentiment, content, emoji, hashtags, and retweets. The graph below shows Twitter activity over the course of the night. The volume of tweets and the sentiment of reactions were the highest during the latter half of the speech when Obama made the remark “I should know; I won both of them” referring to the 2008 & 2012 elections he won.

2015 State of the Union Tweet Volume

Throughout the day before the speech, there weren’t many tweets and they tended to be neutral. These tweets typically contained links to news articles previewing the SOTU address or reminders about the speech. Both of these types of tweets are factual but bland when compared to the commentary and emotional reaction that occurred during the SOTU address itself. The huge spike in Twitter traffic didn’t happen until the President walked onto the House floor which was just before 9:10 PM. When the speech started, the sentiment/number of positive words per tweet increased to about 0.3 positive words/tweet suggesting that the SOTU address was well received. [at least to the people who bothered to tweet]

Around 7:45-8:00 PM the largest negative sentiment occurred during the day. I’ve looked back through the tweets from that time and couldn’t find anything definitive that happened to cause that. My conjecture would be that is when news coverage started [and strongly opinionated] people started watching the news and began to tweet.

The highest sentiment/number of positive words came during the 15-minute polling window where the President quipped about winning two elections. Unfortunately, that sound bite didn’t make a great hashtag, so it didn’t show up else where in my analysis. However, there are many news articles and discussion about that off-the-cuff remark, and it will probably be the most memorable moment from the SOTU address.


Once again [Emoji Popularity Link], the crying-my-eyes-out emoji proved to be the most used emoji in SOTU tweets, typically being used in tweets which aren’t serious and generally sarcastic. Not surprisingly, the clapping emoji was the second most popular emoji mimicking the copious ovations the SOTU address receives. Other notable popular emoji are the fire, US flag, the zzzz emoji and skull. The US flag reflects the patriotic themes of the entire night. The fire is generally reflecting praise for Obama’s speech. The skull and zzzz are commenting on spectators in the crowd.

2015 State of the Union Twitter Emoji Use

Two topic-specific emoji counts were interesting. For the most part in all of my tweet collections, the crying-my-eyes-out emoji is exponentially more popular than any other emoji. Understandably, the set of tweets that contained language associated with terrorism had more handclaps, flags, and angry emoji reflecting the serious nature of the subject.

2015 State of the Union Subject Emojis

Then tweets corresponding to the GOP response had a preponderance of pig-related emojis due to Joni Ernst’s campaign ad.


The following hashtag globe graphic is rather large. Please enlarge to see the most popular hashtags associated with the SOTU address. I removed the #SOTU hashtag, because it was use extensively and overshadowed the rest. For those wondering what #TCOT means, it stands for Top Conservatives on Twitter. The #P2 hashtag is its progressive counterpart. [Source]

2015 State of the Union Hashtag Globe


The White House staff won the retweeting war by being the two most retweeted [RT] accounts during the speech last night. This graph represents the total summed RTs over all the tweets they made. Since the White House and the Barack Obama account tweeted constantly during the speech, they accumulated the most retweets. Michael Clifford has the most retweeted single tweet stating he is just about met the President. If you are wondering who Michael Clifford is, you aren’t alone, because I had to look him up. He’s the 19-yo guitarist from 5 Seconds of Summer. The tweet is from August, however, people did retweet it during the day. [I was measuring the max retweet count on the tweets.] Rand Paul was the most retweeted non-President politician, and the Huffington Post had the most for a news outlet.

2015 State of the Union Popular Retweets

The Speech

Obama released his speech online before starting the State of the Union address. I used this for a quick word-count analysis, and it doesn’t contain the off-the-cuff remarks just the script, which he did stick to with few exceptions. The first graph uses the count of single words with ‘new’ being by far the most used word.

2015 State of the Union Address Word Frequency

This graph shows the most used two-word combinations [also known as bi-grams].

2015 State of the Union Address Bigram Frequency

Further Notes

I was hoping this would be the perfect opportunity to test out my sentiment analysis process, and the evaluation results were rather moderate achieving about 50% accuracy on three classes [negative, neutral, positive]. In this case 50% is an improvement over a 33% random guess, but not very encouraging overall. For the sentiment portion in the tweet volume graph, I used the bag-of-words approach that I have used many times before.

A more interesting and informative classifier might look try to classify the tweet into sarcastic/trolling, positive, and angry genres. I had problems classifying some tweets as positive and negative, because there were many news links, which are neutral, and sarcastic comments, which look positive but feel negative. For politics, classifying the political position might be more useful, since a liberal could be mocking Boehner one minute, then praising Obama the next. Having two tweets classified as liberal rather than a negative tweet and a positive tweet is much more informative when aggregating.