WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Barack Obama's address to Congress Tuesday night appears to have bolstered confidence among many Americans. Four in 10 (41%) say they are now more confident in his plans to improve the economy, including 57% of those who watched or listened to the speech live.
In a one-night Gallup Poll conducted Wednesday night, Americans overall were about evenly split between saying Obama's speech made them more confident and saying it had no effect on their opinion. But those who reported watching or listening to the speech live were far more likely to say it made them more confident, out numbering by a 2-to-1 margin those who said it had no effect. Fewer than 2 in 10 Americans in either group said the speech made them less confident.
While not technically a State of the Union address, Obama's speech was significant in that it was his first address to a joint session of Congress since he took office, set against the backdrop of continuing economic distress, mounting job losses, and the recent passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
All in all, 45% of Americans told Gallup they watched or listened to the speech live versus 26% who said they did not watch the speech live but read, heard, or watched news reports about it, and 29% who did not do either. While one might expect a partisan tilt in the viewership, Democrats were only slightly more likely than independents or Republicans to say they watched the speech live.
While Americans of all political stripes devoted similar levels of attention to the speech, their reactions were decidedly partisan. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats (62%) said the speech made them more confident in Obama's economic plans, compared to only 16% of Republicans. More than half of Republicans (51%) said the speech had no effect and 28% said it made them less confident.
News coverage of Obama's speech has been largely positive, with editorials calling it "confident" and "reassuring." It appears to have come at just the right time for Obama, whose job approval rating in Gallup Poll Daily tracking dipped below 60% for the first time in the reporting period leading up to the speech. He has been gaining in the days since then, and Gallup plans a new report this Friday to more fully examine Obama's job approval after the speech. Overall, Americans' positive reactions to the speech are a good sign for the new president as he leads the nation through this unprecedented economic crisis. Now, Obama's test will be to see if he can translate confidence in his economic plans to improved confidence in the economy itself in the weeks and months ahead.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,025 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 25, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
For results based on the 519 national adults who reported watching the speech live, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls. Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.