State Of The Union Ratings Hit 15 Year Low

2014 State Of The Union

Last Tuesday’s State of the Union Address saw the lowest viewership numbers of any of those that President Obama has delivered and the lowest in fifteen years:

Television viewership for President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night fell to a 15-year low, according to numbers from Nielsen.

The 1-hour, 15-minute speech drew an average of 31.7 million viewers on broadcast and cable networks, the audience tracking firm said.

The combined figure is down about 5% from last year’s State of the Union address, which clocked in at 33.3 million viewers.

This year’s count, which does not include people who streamed the event online, was the lowest since President Clinton’s final State of the Union in 2000. That speech pulled in just under 31.5 million viewers.

Nielsen’s combined tally included networks ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Al Jazeera America, Azteca, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, Galavision, MSNBC, MundoFox and Univision.

Fox News Channel topped cable news ratings for the speech with about 3.5 million viewers.

However, overall viewership for the network slipped from last year’s broadcast, which drew in about 4.7 million viewers.

CNN, which came in second overall, brought in roughly 2.5 million people overall, up from last year’s 2.1 million. But the network edged ahead of Fox News in the key 25-to-54-year-old demographic with 1 million viewers to 934,168.

MSNBC’s audience dropped year-over-year to roughly 2 million viewers. In the key demo, 473,460 people tuned in during the address.

Among the broadcast networks, CBS’ coverage averaged 7.3 million viewers and was the second-most watched program of the night. The network benefited on the East Coast from the lead-in of “NCIS,” which was No. 1 overall with 11.8 million viewers.

Meanwhile, NBC’s State of the Union broadcast was up from last year with 5.3 million viewers. ABC pulled in 4.7 million viewers and Fox averaged 3 million viewers, up 5%.

To some extent, of course, the declining audience can likely be found in those people who watch events like this through various streaming services. However, it’s also likely that the fact that this speech occurred in the sixth year of his Presidency accounts for a good part of the drop off in viewership. In 2009, for example, President Obama’s first State Of The Union drew some 52 million viewers, which is understandable given it was the first address by a new President. The fact that it has dropped off by some 20 million viewers since then is no doubt a reflection of the fact that the public realizes there isn’t much more the President can say and because the speech itself is utterly pointless.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Politicians, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Still pushin’ the pointless thing, eh Doug?

    Why do conservatives hate a recovering America?

  2. @Liberal Capitalist:

    The State of the Union is a pointless spectacle regardless of who the President is or what party he (or she) comes from.

  3. alanstorm says:

    What’s the surprise? There’s better-written and better-performed fiction on other channels.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    Well, to be fair, apart from Republicans who wants to tune in to watch Republicans sneer and mock the president?

    I watched the SOTU recap on various news shows to get the “highlights.” I especially enjoyed the moment when, Obama, after getting Republicans to cheer and applaud him for saying that he’s not running anymore, he reminded them that he beat them twice. Good to see Obama show strength.

  5. James Pearce says:

    The fact that it has dropped off by some 20 million viewers since then is no doubt a reflection of the fact that the public realizes there isn’t much more the President can say and because the speech itself is utterly pointless.

    Not necessarily…..

    Even after shedding tens of millions of viewers, the SOTU still drew more viewers than pretty much everything else.

  6. Tyrell says:
  7. Pinky says:

    This speaks to the influence of OTB.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You really shouldn’t be analyzing politics with such a rigid, simplistic and sophomoric level of understanding. Calling that speech pointless is so dumb it can only be a case of your ideology crippling your critical faculties. Because you’re not really that clueless.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    Then again, Doug, you’re the guy who thought the Tea Party was a truly independent and positive force and that Occupy was an utter failure.

    And what are Republican governors doing? Is it raising taxes to ameliorate the negative effects of Tea Party tax-cutting? And what are Romney and Jeb talking about? Is it inequality? Even Republicans are on the Occupy bandwagon now,and the Tea Party – which it took you a good year to figure out – is on the skids, increasingly an object of ridicule.

  10. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “And what are Republican governors doing? Is it raising taxes to ameliorate the negative effects of Tea Party tax-cutting?”

    To be fair, they are raising taxes that hit middle and low income earners while continuing to slash or eliminate income and estate taxes that mostly affect the rich — so they are still loyal to the Tea Party philosophy.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    …the speech itself is utterly pointless.

    And yet Doug is paying a lot of attention to it…

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell: And you were all over the “coming economic collapse”** in 2006, weren’t you?

    ** there is always a “coming economic collapse”. It is called a “cycle”. Get used to it.

    PS: I called it in ’05-’06. You didn’t have to be smart to see it back then, just observant.

  13. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: So let me see if I understand: you want Liberal Capitalist to know that since the GOP took over Congress, the odds on a major economic contraction occurring during this year are upwards of 65%? Wasn’t this the argument that the left has been making for NOT voting GOP?

  14. DrDaveT says:

    Television viewership for President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night fell to a 15-year low, according to numbers from Nielsen.

    Television viewership for everything is at an all-time low. This is the natural result of 4,473 channels competing with new internet content delivery mechanisms that bypass the network filters.

    This year’s count, which does not include people who streamed the event online,

    Exactly. “If we don’t count everyone who watched, we find that fewer people watched than might have.” Yawn.
    Is SOTU viewership down by more than (say) viewership of major network evening news? If so, maybe that’s worth a comment.

  15. Just Me says:

    Why watch a speech that is essentially political grandstanding and ear tickling (and has been for a very long time), when you can get highlights on the Internet later?

    I haven’t watched a SOTU speech in about 10 years.

    This year I watched a hockey game and didn’t miss anything. There are more than enough resources between online news and bloggers to know what the president said without having to watch.

  16. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    …since the GOP took over Congress, the odds on a major economic contraction occurring during this year are upwards of 65%?

    Face it: Praying for an economic collapse is the only thing that the GOP has that may give them a chance in 2016.

    And it wont happen.

    My call: While the GOP will continue to play with the hot buttons in DC (abortion et al), the Dems will end up passing a bill for infrastructure improvement, putting more Americans to work.

  17. stonetools says:

    Shorter Doug:
    The SOTU speech doesn’t fit my definite of what a political speech should be , and is full of non-libertarian ideas, so it MUST be a pointless spectacle.

  18. LaMont says:

    Doug – with just a little context you should realize that the speech accomplished its main goal. As I stated before, this speech isn’t for the political junkies like you and I. They’re for the masses that probably don’t know where to find their local Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC channels. What’s interesting is that, for whatever reason, viewership was up on the major networks. So all and all, that’s what looks like was accomplished. Those are the people that sway the polls in general elections.