Speech audience was most partisan since 2001

Posted at 8:18 AM, Feb 06, 2019

President Donald Trump's State of the Union address drew a deeply Republican audience, which largely gave the President strong reviews for his address from the House chamber, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS immediately following the speech.

About 6 in 10 speech-watchers had very positive reactions to the President's speech, better than the 48% who reacted that well last year and around the same as the 57% very positive mark in 2017. Those positive marks cut across demographic lines -- with majorities of men (60%) and women (58%), under age 50 (54%) and those 50 or older (61%), and those with (52%) and without (63%) college degrees rating it "very positive."

Related: Full poll results

But the audience had the largest partisan tilt measured in any CNN instant poll following a presidential address to Congress dating back to 2001 -- viewers were roughly 17 points more likely than the general public to identify as Republicans, and were largely fans of the President. In pre-speech surveys, 61% of speech-watchers said they approved of the job he was doing as President, compared with 40% in CNN's latest representative survey of all American adults.

And the glowing reviews came largely from the Republicans (87% very positive) and independents (57% very positive) who tuned in. Democratic speech-watchers largely had negative responses (64% very or somewhat negative).

Even among this mostly pro-Trump audience, however, a majority said they did not think the President would succeed in increasing cooperation between Democrats and Republicans -- 53% said Trump would not succeed in that effort, 39% that he would. Republican speech-watchers were most likely to think Trump could achieve bipartisan harmony (62% said so), while most independent (58%) and Democratic (91%) viewers said it wasn't in the cards.

Two-thirds considered Trump's policy proposals to be ideologically about right, while a quarter rated them too conservative. The President improved over last year's marks on whether his policies would move the country in the right direction overall (71% say so now vs. 62% following last year's speech), and bumped those numbers up among these same respondents compared with their pre-speech ratings of his policy positions (62% right direction pre-speech).

That 71% saying his policies would move the country in the right direction is the best of Trump's presidency in CNN's reaction polling. Breaking it down by issue, Trump scored his highest marks among speech-watchers for his policies on the economy (76% right direction), followed by trade and national security at 70% right direction each. Though still overwhelmingly positive, the shares saying Trump's policies on immigration (68%) and taxes (65%) move the country in the right direction were slightly lower.

The survey included interviews conducted by live interviewers, calling landlines and cellphones, with 584 adults who said they watched the presidential address. Respondents were recruited to participate before the speech from one of three nationally representative surveys. Results for the full sample of 584 speech-watchers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.4 percentage points.

SPECIAL NOTE OF CAUTION: This poll does not and cannot reflect the views of all Americans. It represents only the views of people who watched the speech.