I didn’t watch the President’s State of the Union speech earlier this week. It turns out I’m not alone.
According to the New York Times, 37.8 million viewers watched the President’s speech. That’s down from 42.8 million in 2011, 48 million in 2010, and 52.3 million for the President’s 2009 speech to Congress. In short, 15 million people who watched the President’s initial speech to Congress have just stopped watching. And it’s not as if they lacked the opportunity to do so — the speech was carried on 14 different networks.
I’m sure those 15 million people have stopped watching for lots of different reasons. I stopped because I think the State of the Union speech is stunningly boring and I hate the stylized standing ovations given with robotic predictability by the Members of Congress of the President’s party. I’m sure others have stopped watching because they thought this year’s speech would be repetitive of last year’s speech, and some probably didn’t watch because they have just tuned President Obama out. For those formerly hopeful people, perhaps, the bloom is off the presidential rose after three years of a bad economy and widespread joblessness, despite massive federal spending and huge budget deficits.
The falling viewership for the State of the Union speeches must be of concern to the President and his reelection staff. In America, we vote as much with our channel changers as we do with the lever in our voting booths. And, if I were the President, it’s the last group of non-viewers that would concern me most. If Americans have given up and tuned out on President Obama, how can he turn around their negative perception of him?