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Many Voters Say State of the Union Speeches Don't Lead To Much

Friday, January 21, 2011

A sizable number of voters plan to follow President Obama’s State of the Union speech next Tuesday night but acknowledge that presidents generally don’t accomplish most of what they promise in their annual addresses to the nation.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 79% of Likely U.S. Voters say they are at least somewhat likely to watch or follow news reports about the president’s speech next week, with 53% who say they are Very Likely to do so. Only 18% say they are not very or not at all likely to watch or follow news reports about it. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Last year at this time, right before the president’s State of the Union speech, 82% of voters said they were following news reports about the speech at least somewhat closely, with 40% who were following Very Closely.

Female voters are more likely to follow Obama’s speech than male voters. Far more Democrats and voters not affiliated with either party say they are Very Likely to follow the speech than Republicans are. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the Political Class are Very Likely to watch the speech or follow news reports about it, compared to 46% of Mainstream voters.

Voters overall are narrowly divided when it comes to the significance of annual State of the Union addresses. Forty-four percent (44%) say they are important in terms of setting the nation’s political agenda for the coming year, but slightly more (47%) believe the speeches are mostly just for show.

Only 15% say presidents generally accomplish most of what they promise in their State of the Union speeches. Sixty-three percent (63%) say they do not. Another 23% are not sure.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely U.S. Voters was conducted on January 19-20, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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