A 72% majority of Americans who watched President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address had a positive reaction to the speech, according to a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, with a smaller 34% reacting very positively.
That pattern of broad but tempered enthusiasm is similar to the reception for Biden’s speech last year. In 2022, 71% of speech-watchers reacted positively to his address, with 41% saying their reaction was very positive.
Good marks from speech-watchers are typical for presidential addresses to Congress – in past years, most viewers reported positive reactions to third-year addresses from former presidents Donald Trump (76% positive), Barack Obama (84% positive) and George W. Bush (84% positive). The 34% who reacted very positively to Biden’s speech is the lowest in CNN’s speech reaction polls dating back to 1998.
Biden’s speech received a particularly warm reception from Democrats (62% had a very positive reaction), liberals (57% very positive) and older speech-watchers (52% very positive among those age 65 or older). Among those younger than 45, though, just 21% reported a very positive reaction, even as speech-watchers in this age group were just as likely as those age 65 or older to say that Biden’s policies would move the country in the right direction (75% younger than 45 said so, as did 76% of those age 65 or older).
State of the Union addresses rarely have major, lasting impact on presidents’ approval numbers, particularly in recent years. But Biden’s speech did bolster confidence in his policies among some who tuned in. Following the speech, 71% of speech watchers said they felt the policies Biden proposed would move the country in the right direction, versus 29% who said they would move things in the wrong direction. In a survey conducted before the speech, those same people were closer to evenly split (52% right direction, 47% wrong direction).
The biggest movement came among those who were skeptical of Biden to begin with. Among those who said in the pre-speech survey that they disapproved of the way Biden is handling his presidency, just 7% said before the speech that they thought Biden’s proposed policies would move the country in the right direction, rising to 45% post-speech. And among political independents, the share saying Biden’s policies would move the country in the right direction rose from 40% pre-speech to 66% afterwards.
Overall, 66% who watched the address said that Biden’s policies would move the country in the right direction on the economy – that’s in comparison to 62% of speech-watchers who said the same about his economic policies following his speech last year, and 72% following Biden’s first presidential address to Congress in 2021. The share of viewers this year who felt Biden’s economic policies would mark a shift in the right direction rose 16 percentage points following his speech. That shift was also heavily concentrated among independents, who went from 38% saying his economic proposals would move things in the right direction pre-speech to 64% post-speech.
A two-thirds majority also said that Biden’s policies would move the country in the right direction on foreign affairs (67%) with somewhat more modest majorities saying the same of his policies on gun laws (63%), government spending (59%) and immigration (55%). The share of viewers who said Biden’s immigration policies would move the country in the right direction rose 14 points post-speech.
Roughly half of Americans who tuned in for the speech, 52%, said that Biden’s proposals struck the right balance ideologically, with 38% calling them too liberal and 11% not liberal enough. Most Biden disapprovers, 68%, called his proposals too liberal.
About two-thirds of all speech watchers, 67%, said Biden did enough to address racial injustice in his speech, though that was notably lower among people of color (58% said he did enough) than among White speech watchers (72%). Majorities overall said he did not do enough to address the US relationship with China (59%) or inflation (55%).
Slightly over 6 in 10 speech watchers, 62%, said they had at least some confidence in Biden’s ability to provide real leadership for the country, with 28% expressing a lot of confidence. Another 38% said they had no real confidence.
More on the poll: Surveys were conducted by text message with 552 US adults who said they watched the State of the Union on Tuesday, and are representative of the views of speech-watchers only. Respondents were recruited to participate before the speech, and were selected by a survey of members of the SSRS Opinion Panel, a nationally representative panel recruited using probability-based sampling techniques. Results for the full sample of speech-watchers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.