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28 January 2014

62% of Americans See State of the Union Speech as Nothing But Show

There was once a time when the State of the Union consisted of the President delivering a hand-written message to Congress.

Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States says the President "shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

According to the Congressional Research Service, "Between 1801 and 1913, Presidents fulfilled their constitutional duty by sending their yearly report as a formal written letter to Congress. These written messages contained information about the state of the nation, and also included policy recommendations" [Shogan and Neale (2012). The President’s State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications. Congressional Research Service.].

The days of Presidents keeping it simple and submitting a written message on the State of the Union have long gone. Contemporary state of the Union messages are now elaborate productions that testify to the "awesomeness" of the federal government (note the sarcasm). And most of the American people agree.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 28% of voters think State of the Union speeches are important for setting the nation’s agenda for the next year. Sixty-two percent (62%) view them instead as mostly just for show, up nine points from 53% a year ago when Barack Obama delivered the first State of the Union speech following his reelection.

By a 50% to 38% margin, voters in the president’s party think the State of the Union speech is important in terms of setting the national agenda for the next year. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Republicans and 74% of unaffiliated voters believe the speech is mostly for show.

The show starts tonight at 9PM.