Does the SOTU Even Matter?

by Tevi Troy

We don’t know how many people will watch President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight, but we know that the recent numbers are down considerably from in past years. Last year, only 33 million watched the speech, the lowest since 2000, and the second lowest in the last 20 years. Last year’s viewership was 20 million less than in 2009, and 35 million less than Bill Clinton’s 1993 address. One possible reason for the declining viewership is, as Jonah noted, that “by the sixth one, nobody really wants to watch a State of the Union Address.” Add to this the fact that memorable SOTU moments in this administration have been few and far between. But there is another factor at work as well. With the president, and especially this president, now readily accessible to anyone via YouTube, Twitter, or even late-night talk shows, we get all we want to see of him and more. Technological advances have brought us the over-exposed presidency. As a result, the days of an annual presidential address as must-viewing outside of Washington appear to be behind us.