President Trump’s First State of the Union Trails Three Predecessors in TV Ratings

President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address had lower ratings than his predecessors, which is surprising for the president who used to host a reality TV show.

The president made an abnormally long speech last night, clocking in at 90 minutes. He covered a wide range of topics — from his tax bill, to immigration, to employment rates. Pundits from various networks wondered before and after the speech how successful it could be at bringing new supporters over to Trump's side. The embattled president has made a lot of enemies in politics and in the private sector, and his rhetoric has alienated many people in the middle and left end of the political spectrum.

They were right to question its efficacy — many citizens made a show of opting out of the State of the Union. Across NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox, only 19.8 million people tuned in according to TVLine. Even factoring in the viewers watching on Estrella, Telemundo, Univision, CNN, FOX Business, FOX News, MSNBC and PBS, President Trump's speech was watched by a total of 45.6 million people.

By comparison, President Obama drew an even 48 million viewers for his first State of the Union address, despite the fact that it came during a low point in his approval ratings. President Bill Clinton's first State of the Union clocked in at 45.8 million, just barely above that of Trump.

President George W. Bush's first televised address pulled in 51.8 million viewers, though commentators point out that that's not a fair comparison, as his State of the Union came just four months after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11.


In fairness, many Americans may simply be waiting for the highlights of the president's speech, which will inevitably be boiled down by news anchors, talk show hosts and viral clips. The speech also streamed on YouTube and other platforms — numbers which may be unaccounted for in TVLine's report.

The speech did drive traffic on social media, as every remark the president made became its own viral conversation on Twitter or Facebook.