In a previous article, I conducted an in-depth analysis of all past US presidential inaugurations. After watching newly elected President Biden’s Inaugural Address, I was curious what a sentiment analysis would show. Would I agree with the results of a computer algorithm?

Some Background

I utilized Microsoft’s Cognitive Services for this analysis. It is an API based cloud based service. I chunked the speech into sentences and fed it into the service. The service returns several attributes to classify each sentence as positive, negative, or neutral. There are scores for each of these buckets as well. I loaded the results into a database and used Tableau to visualize the data.

Most Sentences Were Neutral

Biden Sentiment Analysis Graph

Sentiment analysis of President Biden's Inaugural Address

Below is a sample of some of the neutral sentiments. The algorithm was very accurate with these. I would argue that sentences like “This is America’s day” and “This is democracy’s day” should be considered positive. As a human, I can detect that these were meant to be positive. But how did I come to that conclusion? I knew that the president was referring to recent attacks on the U.S. Capitol. But the algorithm doesn’t know that. This is definitely a limitation of the algorithm, but maybe a limitation impossible for a machine to overcome.

Neutral Sentiments in Biden's Inaugural Address

Neutral sentiments of Biden's Inaugural Address according to sentiment analysis

A Once-in-a-Century Virus Silently Stalks The Country

I agree with most of the sentences classified as negative such as “Millions of jobs have been lost” and “A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country.” There are also examples where the algorithm was lacking. Sentences such as “We can deliver racial justice” should be positive. The word “racial” is likely most often used in negative contexts. Also, “We can overcome the deadly virus” should be positive. But the algorithm likely sees the word “deadly” and figures, “This can’t be good!”

Negative sentiments at President Biden's Inaugural Address

Negative sentiments of Biden's Inaugural Address according to sentiment analysis

Positive Sentiments To Go, Please

By plotting the sentiments in time sequence as they were delivered, you can see that a big wave of positive sentiments concluded the speech.

Timeline of sentiments delivered by President Biden

Timeline of sentiments delivered by President Biden

I was pleased with the results of the positive sentiment analysis. I agree with most of what the algorithm decided. Here is a sample.

Positive sentiments delivered by President Biden

Positive sentiments delivered by President Biden

President Biden Compared to Recent Presidents

Biden didn’t rank favorably compared to recent presidents, based on the percentage of different sentiments.

Most positive presidents and most negative presidents

The most positive presidents and the most negative presidents

However, if you look at the raw counts of sentences (not by percentage, as the previous chart does), it tells a slightly different story. Here, you can see President Biden delivered more positive remarks than all recent presidents, other than President Obama. However, the same holds true for the negative sentences he delivered.

Another distinction: the sentiment analysis takes every sentence independently. As you can see, Biden delivered a lot more sentences than others, especially the Republican Presidents Trump and George W. Bush. Although the word counts were not substantially different from other recent presidents, the number of words per sentence was. In other words, Biden had a lot of sentences with not as many words.

Sentiment analysis using count of sentences

Sentiment analysis using number of sentences

Try It Out Yourself – Interact With Dashboard

Kick the tires and have fun filtering and exploring Tableau, a data visualization tool, on your own. You can also read all of the inaugural addresses right here.

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