The web is drowning in reactions to the State of the Union speech at the moment, so there’s no need for a lengthy analysis here. What may be far more interesting is the reaction of the media, not so much to the speech itself, but how it was received. CNN conducted an instant reaction poll among viewers who had previously indicated that they planned to watch and agreed to be contacted afterward and share their opinions. Rather than dancing around the bottom line, let’s just start with the numbers up front. Given options of Very Positive, Somewhat Positive or Negative, this one broke in a completely unexpected direction, particularly for habitual CNN viewers.
Very Positive —————– 48%
Somewhat Positive ——— 22%
Negative ———————– 28%
Given the steady drumbeat against the President in the media, the fact that you can find anything with his name attached which draws a 70% positive response is nigh on miraculous. You might think such a response would be so remarkable that it would nearly stop the presses. So what did CNN wind up deciding on for a headline to feature these poll results? Take a look for yourself.
You can tell they struggled with how to tease this story because a look at the page source shows the original title they chose. “Less than half of State of the Union watchers have very positive view of Trump address.”
CNN immediately begins bending over backwards to make sure that you know this is the lowest rating recorded since they began asking the question in the 90s. Then come the “caveats” which CNN felt compelled to add, showing you that Trump really couldn’t have done that well. (Emphasis added)
Some important caveats: This survey reflects the views of only those who watched the speech, not of all Americans. The poll was conducted among a group of Americans who said in prior interviews that they planned to watch the speech and were willing to be contacted after its conclusion.
People who choose to watch a political speech tend to be more supportive of the speaker than the general population; this sample was about 7 points more Republican than the entire American population.
And you’re telling us this highly scientific fact why, precisely? Are you perhaps sorry that you didn’t poll the reactions to the speech from people who didn’t watch the speech?
While you couldn’t tell from the article on CNN’s website, the Daily Caller pulled up their on-air coverage and found that analyst David Shelley was comparing the “very positive” numbers Trump received to those of Barack Obama and George W. Bush during some midterm SOTU speeches.
“We went back to look at the State of the Union address at the beginning of a midterm election year where the president’s party was facing a lot of headwinds. Take a look at this,” CNN’s David Shelley said. “48 percent very positive reaction across the board. Barack Obama at the beginning of 2010, he had 48% very positive reaction. George W. Bush at the beginning of 2006, in his second midterms, 48 percent, very positive.”
You can see that the words are sitting like ashes in their mouths over there. Trump’s speech received the same, middle-of-the-road level of “very positive” marks as the last two presidents in a midterm year where their party was facing a tough slog. Just for fun, let’s see how CNN handled the polling and analysis after Obama’s 2010 SOTU. You can read it here. The results look strangely familiar, don’t they?
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey indicated that 48 percent of speech watchers had a very positive reaction, with three in 10 saying they had a somewhat positive response and 21 percent with a negative response.
So Obama did slightly better with the “somewhat positive” crowd (by 8 points) but other than that the numbers were all in the same ballpark, with identical numbers being very enthusiastic. Oddly, CNN didn’t see fit to mention that in their analysis last night. And there was no talk in 2010 about how “less than half(!)” of viewers were very positive about it.
I’ll just leave this here for your consideration. File it under, Things That Make You Go Hmmm.