Inaugurate: bringing Search trends to the speeches that shaped presidencies

As the 45th President of the United States gets sworn in this week, we thought it would be interesting to set Presidential Inauguration speeches in context — who is the top trending president? What speeches have been most popular over the years? That is where Inaugurate comes in.

Inaugurate is an interactive guide to presidential inauguration speeches through the lens of Google Search, built by Jan Willem Tulp of Tulp Interactive in connection with the Google News Lab and art director Alberto Cairo.

It works by taking the the first inauguration speeches of the most searched Presidents since 2004, which is as far back as Google Trends data goes. In case you’re interested, here’s how the President’s rank in Google Search interest:

  1. Barack Obama
  2. Donald Trump (will be added into the interactive after Friday)
  3. George W. Bush
  4. Abraham Lincoln
  5. John F. Kennedy
  6. Ronald Reagan
  7. Bill Clinton
  8. George Washington
  9. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  10. Thomas Jefferson

Typically, we contextualize the insights we get from Google Trends by looking at other related datasets. In this case, beyond looking at the all-up Search interest in Presidents, we also looked at the actual text of the speeches. We identified the top subjects mentioned in each speech in a textual analysis and compared them on search — to see which speeches and subjects still resonate today.

Tulp came up with some novel ways to mash up the two data sets. The viz works like this:

Each rectangle represents a sentence, and the length of each column represents the total length of the speech.

Tulp then analysed the speech, dividing it up into the constituent subjects (i.e., God, economy, constitution, etc.). Those subjects are marked as white circles on each speech.

The analysis revealed some interesting insights about both Search data and the speeches themselves.

  • God is the most mentioned subject in inauguration speeches — and President Abraham Lincoln mentioned God more often than any other President.
  • Peace was the most mentioned subject by Jefferson, Nixon and Reagan.
  • While commerce is a subject that has a high Search interest throughout the year, it has also been mentioned by Presidents across history: Obama, Clinton and Jefferson.
  • Courage is the top searched concept of 2016 — and was mentioned the most by President George W. Bush.

Inaugurate is the third in a series of Google News Lab data visualisations working with some of the top interactive designers working today to visualise Google data. It follows the work we’ve done on the WorldPotus.com and The Rhythm of Food interactives.

Would you like to work with us on an interactive project? Email newslabtrends@google.com.

Simon Rogers is data editor at the Google News Lab.