President Trump is a highly effective public speaker–one of several skills for which he does not get the credit he deserves. Unusually for a politician, he excels at both impromptu stump speeches and set pieces like the State of the Union. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that viewers who watched last night’s speech liked it. Snap polls taken immediately after the SOTU by CNN and CBS both found 76% approval. Smaller online polls like this one and this one, while obviously unscientific, got remarkably similar results.
To some extent, this no doubt reflects the fact that Republicans were more likely to watch the speech than Democrats. Maxine Waters, perhaps foreseeing how effective the president would be, urged Democrats not to tune in. But that isn’t the whole story: Trump’s unifying vision of American greatness appeals to most Americans, when they actually hear him articulate it.
The job of the press is to filter voters’ access to Trump and spin events so as to convey a negative view. We see this every day; this CNN headline, anticipating last night’s speech, typifies how far gone the press is in partisanship: Trump preps for SOTU, plans to tout record despite polls. It just about always helps the president when voters see him for themselves. That was certainly true last night.
One thing I haven’t seen polled is whether viewers approved of the Democrats’ conduct during the SOTU. I thought they made fools of themselves, both with their “suffragette” garb and their refusal to applaud–to take just one instance–positive economic data. Just as it helps the president when voters see him unfiltered by the press, it also helps when they see Pelosi, Schumer, et al. in their natural habitat.