It may have been a good speech, but the number of people watching President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on television Tuesday was the smallest of his presidency.
About 33.3 million viewers took in his hour-long speech, a decline from 33.5 million last year, according to the Nielsen ratings company. Nielsen said it was the lowest total for a State of the Union since President Bill Clinton, then a lame duck, gave his final such speech in 2000 and drew 31.5 million viewers.
Obama defenders say it's wrong to rely too much on TV ratings to assess the public's interest in the speech because many Americans followed it online or used social media over a period of several days.
But each year of Obama's presidency, the number of TV viewers of his State of the Union addresses has gone down. When he spoke to a joint session of Congress in 2009 (his first speech in that venue, though not technically a State of the Union because he had just taken office) he drew 52.4 million viewers. The number went down for his State of the Union in 2010 to 48 million, then declined in 2011 to 43 million, decreased in 2012 to 38 million, and dropped in 2013 to 33.5 million.
The numbers have been declining, political strategists say, because many Americans don't expect much new from Obama. Many oppose his agenda and have tuned him out and some people are just tired of him after five years in office.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.