For the past four years, the National League of Cities has published an annual State of the Cities blog series analyzing mayors’ State of the City speeches. These blogs typically analyzed around 30 speeches and identified trends in city policy and leadership.
This year, we decided to expand upon this project. To provide a more detailed and thorough analysis of the State of the Cities in 2014, we conducted a content analysis of 100 mayors’ State of the City speeches and tested for 10 major topics, including Economic Development/Jobs, Transportation and Education. We also tested for the prevalence of subthemes of each topic, such as “accelerators”, “entrepreneurship” and “workforce development” within the Economic Development/Jobs topic.
To establish a database of State of the City speeches, we used a web search to find every State of the City speech given between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2014, which had a transcript of the speech available online. We found 105 speeches that met the criteria and selected five speeches at random to be excluded from the analysis. The final 100 speeches represent cities with diverse populations and from varying geographic locations; there are at least 20 speeches from each of four population categories (<50,000, 50,000-99,999, 100,000-299,999, 300,000+) and geographic regions (Northeast, Midwest, South, West).
In constructing the content analysis, we created guidelines for coding each of the 10 major topics. During this process, we referred to the work of Sarah Beth Gehl and Katherine Willoughby, who conducted a content analysis of State of the State speeches in 2013 . Through our content analysis, we were able to answer three main questions for each topic: the percent of speeches “covering” the topic, the percent with “significant coverage” of the topic, and the average percent of speech content devoted to the topic. We then analyzed these findings, as well as the prevalence of subthemes, with regard to the population and geographic region of the cities to provide further context.