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   President’s Support Usually Unaffected by State of Union; Clinton’s 1998 speech the exception to the rule

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1/27/2010 12:00 pm

Author

Jeffrey M. Jones

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Analysis

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Entered 1/27/2010, Updated 1/27/2010

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PRINCETON, NJ -- As Barack Obama prepares to give his first State of the Union address as president, a review of Gallup historical data suggests these speeches rarely affect a president's public standing in a meaningful way, despite the amount of attention they receive. Among recent presidents, only Bill Clinton seemed to reap a public-opinion benefit from the yearly ritual, with an average 3 percentage-point increase across his seven State of the Union speeches. Clinton's 1998 State of the Union speech is notable for the sharp increase in his approval rating that followed. Just prior to the Jan. 27, 1998, speech, a Jan. 25-26 Gallup poll found 59% of Americans approving of the job Clinton was doing as president. The next Gallup update on his approval rating, conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 1 of that year, found 69% of Americans approving of Clinton. In that speech, Clinton announced that the federal budget was balanced and was able to tout a strong economy. The speech is also notable because it was given just days after news broke of his alleged affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But Clinton's 1996 State of the Union speech -- which may have served as the unofficial kickoff for his re-election campaign that year -- also seemed to have a positive impact on Americans' views of his performance as president, with his approval rating increasing from 46% pre-speech to 52% post-speech.


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