THE BLOG
02/24/2009 11:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Speech Reactions

Some initial survey and focus group reactions to tonight's "non State of the Union" speech by President Obama.

CBS News conducted a nationally representative online poll of 500 Americans that watched the speech.** "Seventy-nine percent of speech watchers approve of President Obama’s plans for dealing with the economic crisis. Before the speech, 62 percent approved." More results here; they promise a complete report later tonight.

CNN conducted a survey 484 adults who watched Obama's speech. "Sixty-eight percent of speech-watchers questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey had a very positive reaction, with 24 percent indicating that they had a somewhat positive response and 8 percent indicating that they had a negative reaction."

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg's Democracy Corps conducted a 50-person "dial group" (a non-random sample focus group in which participants register their reactions throughout the speech). In a post-speech conference call, he described the speech as successful for Obama, with much less polarization separating the responses of Democratic and Republican participants than is typical. "I've never seen anything like it. Republicans never went below 50 [on their dial ratings]." Democracy Corps has posted a report (including video of the dial test) and tables (PDF) will post a complete report either later tonight or tomorrow.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz conducted a 27-person focus group for Fox News ("half voted for Obama, half voted for McCain") that "divided along party lines." Fox has posted video and a transcript of their on-air summary. Huffington Post's Sam Stein has more.

MSBNC conducted a "dial group" of 32 Obama and McCain supporters from three Pennsylvania Counties. MSNBC's Tamron Hall reports via Twitter that "both groups gave the Pres extremely high marks. Approval number went up with dems and republicans." The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart has more.

Update - NBC has posted video of Tamron Hall's summary of their focus group:

Also, ABC News polling director Gary Langer advises us to take all of this with a grain of salt:

We at ABC quit producing instant speech-reaction polls several years ago. Good sampling's a bear in this kind of thing, but there are two equally basic problems: Speech watchers tend to be favorably inclined to the speechifier in the first place (those who can't stand him are unlikely to watch); and speeches are crowd-pleasing (even platitudinous) by design (e.g., let's cure cancer).

While viewers may get caught up in the moment, a single speech in and of itself is very highly unlikely to change any fundamental attitudes. Events on the ground do that. People do listen to what our leaders say - but above all, we watch what they do.

**CBS News samples speech watchers using the nationally representative Knowledge Networks internet panel. The original version of this post put quotation marks around the words nationally representative, which struck some readers as expressing editorial skepticism about their methodology. Apologies for that, as I intended no such meaning. That said, as I explained back in August, there are reasons to be a bit more cautious about interpreting results from a panel survey.