clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

46 million people watched Trump’s State of the Union address on TV

Trump tweeted on Thursday that’s the most ever. It’s not.

President Trump's First State of the Union Address Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

President Donald Trump lied about his inauguration crowd size being the biggest ever. Now he appears to be doing the same with his State of the Union numbers.

Trump on Thursday morning tweeted about his State of the Union viewership, which came in at 45.6 million across 12 networks, according to Nielsen. He said it was the “highest number in history.”

While the number is quite high, it isn’t the most ever — it’s about 2 million short of former President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address in 2010, and less than Trump’s own address to a joint session of Congress last year. President Bill Clinton’s 1993 speech was the most-watched ever.

Trump’s Tuesday viewership does beat Obama’s in his later years in office. Obama had 42.8 million viewers in 2011 but failed to break the 40 million mark in all the subsequent years of his presidency, with 31.1 million people watching his final State of the Union address in 2016. (Clinton’s 1993 address had 66.9 million viewers.)

According to data from Nielsen, Trump’s speech, an hour and 20 minutes long, garnered 45.6 million television viewers on Tuesday evening across 12 networks. Obama’s first State of the Union in 2010 had 48 million viewers, while his address to a joint session to Congress in February 2009, a sort of pseudo-State of the Union, had 52.4 million viewers. Trump’s 2017 joint session address had about 48 million viewers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fox News led coverage on Tuesday, with 11.5 million viewers tuning in. On broadcast, 7.1 million people watched on NBC, 7 million on CBS, 5.4 million on ABC, and 3.6 million on Fox. On cable beyond Fox News, 3.1 million people watched on CNN, and 2.7 on MSNBC.

Trump did have a big night on Twitter

While his television ratings may not have beaten Obama’s, Trump’s ratings in another place he values did: Twitter. According to data released by the social media platform, Trump’s address generated 4.5 million tweets, making it the most tweeted State of the Union or address to a joint session of Congress ever. (The previous record was Trump’s 2017 joint session address.)

Trump’s “We proudly stand for the national anthem” line — a swipe at protesting NFL players — was the speech’s top-tweeted moment, followed by his discussion of immigration reform proposals, and mentions of the gang MS-13. President Trump was, unsurprisingly, the most-tweeted-about person during his speech. President Barack Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) were second and third.

The public appeared to generally approve of Trump’s speech. According to a CBS News poll released shortly after the address, 75 percent of those who watched Trump’s speech approved of it, compared to 25 percent who disapproved. To be sure, the people who watch the speech tend to be those who are more amenable to the president in the first place — according to CBS’s poll, 42 percent of viewers were Republicans, 33 percent independents, and 25 percent Democrats.

Update: A previous version of this story showed partial viewership numbers at 40 million. It has now been updated with full viewership numbers at 46 million and Trump’s tweet.