Initial response to President Donald Trump’s third State of the Union address was positive, according to CNN polling. Seventy-six percent of those who watched the speech said their overall reaction was positive (59% “very positive;” 17% “somewhat positive”), compared to 13% who said their reaction was “somewhat negative;” and 10% who said it was “very negative.” This is slightly better than the 70% of viewers who had a positive response to Mr. Trump’s address in 2018 (48% very; 22% somewhat) and almost as good as the 78% who had a positive reaction to his first address in 2017 (57% very; 21% somewhat).
These numbers are slightly lower than the ratings President Trump’s two predecessors received for the State of the Union addresses they delivered the year before their re-elections. In 2003, 84% of viewers said they had a positive reaction to President George W. Bush’s address (50% very; 34% somewhat), while 14% said they had a negative reaction (3% very; 11% somewhat). In 2011, 84% of viewers said they had a positive reaction to President Barack Obama’s address (52% very; 32% somewhat), while 15% said they had a negative response (4% very; 11% somewhat). In the twenty years CNN has been asking viewers for their post-State of the Union reactions, President Bush received the highest positive overall response a few months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when 94% of viewers said they had a positive response to his 2002 address (74% very; 20% somewhat). Over the same time span, President Trump’s 2018 address received the lowest overall positive response (70%).
An audience that is heavier with supporters of the president than those who did not vote for him likely accounts for high positive ratings over the course of CNN’s historic trends. President Trump’s speech struck both bipartisan and contentious tones, but what he does next will help shape his 2020 re-election chances, especially when it comes to issues like the border wall, infrastructure, foreign policy, and health care.