Almost half of Americans who watched President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address – 48% – say they had a “very positive” impression of the speech, down from 57% of speech-watchers after his first address to match Barack Obama’s rating after his first State of the Union address, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
It’s the lowest net positive rating for a State of the Union address since at least 1998, when CNN first asked the question. There is no equivalent poll for addresses before 1998.
Some important caveats: This survey reflects the views of only those who watched the speech, not of all Americans. The poll was conducted among a group of Americans who said in prior interviews that they planned to watch the speech and were willing to be contacted after its conclusion.
People who choose to watch a political speech tend to be more supportive of the speaker than the general population; this sample was about 7 points more Republican than the entire American population.
A narrow majority of viewers, 54%, says it thinks Trump has the right priorities, down from 63% from a similar poll after his speech last year to a joint session of Congress. Not quite half, 45%, say he hasn’t paid attention to the country’s most important problems.
Still, more than 6 in 10 viewers, 62%, say they think his policies will move the country in the right direction. But more than 4 in 10 people who watched the address say they are not confident in his abilities to carry out his duties as President.
Only 56% of viewers say they think his policies are headed in the right direction on immigration – down 6 points since his 2017 speech. His proposals on other issues are higher: Roughly 8 in 10 people who viewed Trump’s address say he has the right direction on infrastructure and 7 in 10 say he’s going the right direction on the economy.
Trump's first State of the Union address
A majority of Americans who watched Trump’s speech to Congress last year, 57%, said they had a very positive reaction. Two-thirds or more said Trump had the right priorities for the nation, his policies were headed the right direction and the speech made them feel more optimistic.
Only 48% of viewers had a very positive view of Obama’s first State of the Union address, though a larger portion had a somewhat positive reaction, giving him a net positive score of 78% in 2010. He also did better during his first address to Congress, just after being inaugurated in 2009. Then, 68% said they had a very positive view of his address.
The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS on January 30, 2018, among 549 Americans who watched Trump’s address. Respondents were first interviewed as part of a random national samples conducted from January 14-18 and January 25-28. In those interviews, respondents indicated they planned to watch Tuesday night’s speech and said they were willing to be re-interviewed. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.