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State of the Union Has Had Little Effect on Obama Approval

Has averaged one-percentage-point increase after State of Union addresses

PRINCETON, NJ -- As President Barack Obama prepares to deliver his fourth State of the Union address, a review of Gallup polls finds his approval rating has changed little after each of his first three State of the Union speeches. His approval rating was flat after his first two, and showed a slight, two-percentage-point increase last year.

Changes in Obama Job Approval, Pre- and Post-State of the Union, 2010-2012

Gallup has done sufficiently frequent polling before and after State of the Union addresses to measure their impact since Jimmy Carter's presidency. Generally speaking, these addresses have had little effect on how Americans view the president, despite the widespread media coverage of them.

The one-point average increase in Obama's approval rating after his first three State of the Union addresses is consistent with the generally minimal impact Gallup has measured for other recent presidents. For four of the six presidents, including Obama, the State of the Union had its greatest positive impact on their approval rating in their re-election year.

Changes in Presidential Job Approval After State of the Union Addresses, Carter Through Obama

In fact, most presidents have shown an average decrease in approval of one or more points between the last poll conducted before the State of the Union and the first one conducted afterward.

The full data on State of the Union addresses and their effect on approval are shown at the end of the article. Prior to the institution of Gallup Daily tracking in 2008, the results are based on the last Gallup poll conducted before the State of the Union address and the first Gallup poll conducted after it. Often, these polls were conducted several days, if not a week or more, before or after the State of the Union. Thus, it is possible the pre- and post-speech measures for prior presidents were affected by events in addition to the State of the Union.

For example, Gallup measured a six-point increase in George W. Bush's approval rating after his 2005 State of the Union address, but that was given around the time Iraq successfully held democratic elections under U.S. supervision. Also, Bill Clinton's record 10-point increase in approval after the 1998 State of the Union came when allegations of his extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky were surfacing. Thus, in both instances, it is not clear how much of the increase was due to the president's State of the Union and how much was due to contemporaneous events.


President Obama will deliver his 2013 State of the Union address with a 52% approval rating from the American public. His three-day average approval rating has been quite stable in recent days, at 52% in each of the last nine Gallup Daily tracking reports. It is also slightly higher than his approval rating prior to his last three State of the Union addresses.

Given the current stability in Obama's ratings, as well as the historical ratings for most presidents after State of the Union addresses, it is unlikely that Obama's approval rating will change much in the days after Tuesday's State of the Union.

Explore President Obama's approval ratings in depth and compare them with those of past presidents in the Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center.

Approval Ratings Pre- and Post-State of the Union, Presidents From Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama

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