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Early polling of Biden’s State of the Union doesn’t quite match the hype

Democrats
would
like
to
believe
that
President
Biden
changed
the
2024
game
with
his

State
of
the
Union
address

Thursday
night,
demonstrating
verve
and
combativeness
amid
concerns
about
his
age
and
mental
acuity.

It’s
not
so
clear
the
American
public
saw
the
home
run
that
they
did.

Biden’s
campaign
and
some
media
outlets
have
pointed
to
a

post-speech
instant
CNN
poll

showing
65
percent
of
viewers
offered
a
positive
review
of
Biden’s
speech.
Viewers
also
shifted
17
points
toward
believing
the
country
is
headed
in
the
right
direction

from
45
percent
before
the
speech
to
62
percent
afterward.

Both
of
these
are
true.
What’s
also
true
is
that
State
of
the
Union
speeches
almost
always
receive
strongly
favorable
views,
in
part
because
viewership
tends
to
draw
disproportionately
from
their
allies.

The
65
percent
who
had
a
positive
view
of
the
speech
was
actually
lower
than
any
such
speech
CNN
has
polled
in
the
past
quarter-century

the
previous
low
being
Donald
Trump’s
2018
address
(70
percent).

And
the
35
percent
who
offered
a
“very”
positive
review
was
effectively
tied
with
Biden’s
speech
last
year
(34
percent)
for
the
lowest
on
record.
Next-lowest
were
Biden’s
2022
speech
and
George
W.
Bush’s
2007
speech,
which
each
earned
“very”
positive
marks
from
41
percent
of
viewers.

The
17-point
shift
toward
the
country
moving
in
the
“right
direction”
was
also
unremarkable,
historically
speaking.
Dating
back
to
Bill
Clinton’s
1998
State
of
the
Union
address,
viewers
have
shifted
an
average
of
15
points
toward
that
more
optimistic
view.

Now
we
get
to
the
caveat,
and
that’s
that
viewers
Thursday
were
less
aligned
with
the
president
than
your
average
State
of
the
Union
audience

potentially
because
we’re
in
a
campaign
year,
or
because
questions
about
Biden’s
ability
to
perform
drew
in
more
people
who
were
skeptical
of
him.

That
appears
to
explain
at
least
part
of
the
poorer-than-normal
reviews

but
not
all.

The
CNN
sample
was
36
percent
Democratic
and
30
percent
Republican.
Generally
speaking,
members
of
a
president’s
party
will
outnumber
members
of
the
opposite
party
by
double
digits.

But
we
have
seen
such
closely
divided
audiences,
and
with
stronger
reviews.
In
Trump’s
2017
and
2018
speeches,
Republicans
outnumbered
Democrats
by
just
five
percentage
points
in
CNN’s
sample.
Trump’s
reviews
in
those
speeches
were
still
stronger
than
Biden’s
on
Thursday:
78
percent
positive
(including
57
percent
“very”
positive)
in
2017,
and
70
percent
positive
reviews
(including
48
percent
“very”
positive)
in
2018.

It’s
early,
and
it’s
worth
keeping
an
eye
out
for
other
data

not
just
direct
reviews
of
the
speech,
but
evidence
of
any
actual
shifts
in
the
electorate
that
come
in
the
days
and
weeks
afterward.
The
basic
reviews
of
the
speech
might
not
account
for
how
people’s
notions
might
have
fundamentally
changed
on
issues
such
as
Biden’s
acuity.
Those
will
be
the
numbers
we
should
really
watch.

While
this
is
the
most
robust
data
we
have,
it’s
not
the
only
data.

YouGov

came
out
with
a
post-speech
poll
Friday
afternoon.
But
it
wasn’t
resounding
either;
it
showed
30
percent
thought
the
speech
would
make
people
like
Biden
more,
while
23
percent
thought
it
would
make
them
like
him
less.

Independents
were
about
evenly
split
on
the
question.
But
Democrats
wagered
by
a
56-8
margin
that
it
would
help
Biden’s
popularity.

Hope
springs
eternal.

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