Two polls measured immediate reactions to President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night. A CNN/Opinion Research poll found 84 percent of speech-watchers reacted positively to his message, 52 percent very positively. A CBS News poll found 91 percent of watchers approve of the proposals the president made.
These overwhelmingly positive reactions must be understood in the context of those who watched the speech. The CNN sample of speech-watchers was composed of 39 percent Democrats, 19 percent Republicans and 42 percent independents. The CBS poll had a similar profile; 44 percent Democrats, 25 percent Republicans and the 31 percent independents. Among all Americans in the last CBS/New York Times poll, 34 percent identified as Democrats, 27 percent Republican and 39 percent independent.
It's very common for speech watchers to lean toward the party of the president, a built in audience more favorably disposed to hear what he has to say. Mark Blumenthal summarizes the trend in partisan composition of speech-watchers from CNN and CBS here.
The lead theme of the night - a new effort toward bipartisanship - was reflected in the polls. CBS found 62 percent believe Democrats and Republicans will work together more this year. And CNN found 89 percent saying the decision of some Republicans and Democrats to sit together as a good idea. Another 61 percent believe that Obama's plans will succeed in increasing cooperation between the parties.
The main policy components of the speech were well received and results overall are uniformly positive for Obama. More than eight in 10 in the CBS poll approve of Obama's plans for dealing with the economy, the deficit and Afghanistan. Three-quarters of respondents are bullish that Obama's plans will create jobs and make the economy more globally competitive. There is less confidence that he will reduce government spending however, at just 56 percent.
In the CNN poll, 68 percent said they think Obama's plan will succeed in improving the economy and 61 percent said it will create or save millions of jobs. As in the CBS poll, there is slightly lower confidence he will succeed in reducing the deficit at 57 percent.
CNN also found 77 percent thinking Obama's policies will move the country in the right direction and 71 percent rated Obama's speech as just about right ideologically, with 23 percent calling it too liberal and 5 percent not liberal enough.
In order to turn around a poll of this nature quickly enough, each was designed as a re-interview of respondents who were initially interviewed earlier in January. The pre- and post-interview design allows for comparisons of answers before and after the speech. On all available measures, Obama got big bumps after the speech.