The Political Geography of Presidential Speeches, 1946-87

John O'Loughlin, Richard Grant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


A central theme of political geography and international relations is the changing foreign policy of the United States, the global leader since 1945. Speechmaking is a major geopolitical activity. A political communication-based view of the American presidency combined with a spatial-temporal framework of global politics provided the methodology for the analysis of presidential speeches. The State of the Union addresses offer a consistent source of documentation of the priorities of American policy, and the geography of the speeches indicates the regional emphases of American strategy over time. A content analysis of the forty-two messages from 1946-87 yielded two key indicators, foreign policy ratio and specific regional ratio. In addition, six global regions were defined. Yearly variations in the key indices are randomly distributed in a temporal sense but are strongly related to regional conflicts with U.S. involvement. The maps for each president recorded dramatic differences from detailed (Presidents Carter and Reagan) to nearly blank (Presidents Nixon and Ford). The Soviet Union dominated all maps except that of President Johnson. An environmental model, relating presidential behavior as a function of the domestic, political and international conditions, explained more than half of the variation in the foreign policy proportion, but none of its variables related significantly to the regional index. A geographic shift in regional emphasis over four decades does not represent a reduction of the superpower competition, but represents in-.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-530
Number of pages27
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'The Political Geography of Presidential Speeches, 1946-87'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this