Mar 1, 2022 - Politics & Policy

How long each State of the Union address has been

Average length of the State of the Union address
Data: UC Santa Barbara; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama averaged some of the wordiest State of the Union addresses in recent history, according to data from UC Santa Barbara's The American Presidency Project.

Why it matters: The famously verbose President Biden could follow in their lengthy footsteps on Tuesday night. His address to a Joint Session of Congress last year exceeded 8,000 words — more than any other spoken first joint address or State of the Union except for Clinton's 1995 speech.

By the numbers: In addition to the wordiest spoken speech, Clinton also had the top two longest State of the Union addresses when measured by minutes, going back to at least President Johnson.

  • Clinton's longest — and last — was just under an hour and a half.
  • Speeches by President Trump came in third and fourth for timed length.

When it comes to written-only addresses, President Carter's 1981 address at the end of his presidency came out on top, at 33,667 words.

  • At the time, Soviets had invaded Afghanistan and the Iran hostage crisis had not been resolved.

The big picture: There have been a total of 97 in-person State of the Union addresses, according to House Office of the Historian.

  • The traditional speech originated with the Constitution.
  • It says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
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