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Prevalence of Substantive Policy in American Presidential Inaugural Addresses Open Access Deposited

The inaugural address is the starting line of a four-year marathon, a bold declaration of ambitions outlined on the campaign trail looking to be crystallized into concrete policy. Presidents streamline their own national visions into a single, cohesive address and distill their proposals into rallying cries for the American people. But how does the subject matter of inaugural addresses predict or indicate with a presidential administration’s later priorities and accomplishments? This study seeks to investigate this question by performing a content analysis of a stratified random sample of presidents. It develops a coding scheme and creates 12 categories that presidents have and could discuss in their inaugural addresses. It analyzes each of the chosen presidents’ inaugural addresses and subsequent State of the Union addresses, identifying substantive policy issues and recording an approximate word count for each one. After calculating the word count for each category in all of the selected inaugural addresses and States of the Union, the categories and word counts will be ranked for each individual speech. The rankings will then be compared between the two with a one-ranking margin of error. All of this data seems to preliminarily indicate that issue replicability is increasing over time, but magnitude replicability is much more variable. Therefore, it can be concluded that inaugural addresses are not likely to contain substantive policy that will affect the priorities and accomplishments of a president’s administration.

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