PRINCETON, NJ -- U.S. presidents rarely see a spike in public support after their delivery of State of the Union addresses. Since 1978, Gallup has measured only four instances when a president's approval rating increased by at least four percentage points after a State of the Union address, with Bill Clinton the president in three of these instances and George W. Bush in the other.
Last year, Barack Obama's job approval rating in the days just prior to his first official State of the Union address was 48%, and it remained at that level for the first three days after the speech. However, his approval rating did rise slightly after that, averaging 50% in February.
It is not clear whether that increase was a delayed reaction to his address or the result of other factors. Obama's approval rating in the days leading up to his 2010 State of the Union was down from what he had been getting earlier in January, so the post-State of the Union increase may also have been just a return to his prior levels.
Obama enters this year's address on an upswing, with the improvement coming slowly but steadily over the past two months. His weekly average from Gallup Daily tracking for Jan. 17-23 is 50%, the first time it has reached that level since last May. In the first full week after the midterm elections last November, Obama's approval rating averaged 44%.
As with all State of the Union addresses, Obama's will command the attention of the news media -- if not the nation -- over the next few days. That short-term increase in attention usually does not translate into increased public support for a president, perhaps because presidential addresses seem to be viewed more widely by the president's supporters than by nonsupporters. Obama's support is already elevated in comparison with recent weeks; this may make it less likely that his approval rating will rise after the State of the Union.
Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Jan. 17-23, 2011, with a random sample of 3,542 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
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.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 200 cell phone respondents and 800 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.