January 25, 2019

SOTU in this political climate? A nothingburger in public sentiment, says politicist

jay-mccann Jay McCann, a professor of political science at Purdue University, says the State of the Union address, in whatever form it takes, is unlikely to move approval ratings of President Donald Trump in either direction. (Purdue University photo) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The postponement of the 2019 State of the Union Address is of little consequence. President Donald Trump would likely have gained little. Or lost little. So says a political scientist and expert on public opinion polling.

 “A State of the Union address traditionally has had the potential to be a rally event, and presidents might expect to gain in standings perhaps as many as four or five percentage points,” says Jay McCann, a professor of political science at Purdue University. “But in Trump’s case, I think it would be a very easy bet that public opinion is not going to be moved very much one way or the other.”

Mired in negotiations over the southern border wall, halted by a federal government shutdown and barred by House Speaker Nany Pelosi from speaking before a joint session of Congress, Trump announced Thursday he would postpone the speech until the government is reopened. The possibility had existed that he could deliver his message in a different a format or forum, but the State of the Union address has taken place before Congress for roughly a century, McCann said.

Trump’s approval ratings have been stagnant for the past six months, suggesting they would not meaningfully fluctuate even if the address happened at the traditional time and place, McCann said.

“It seems like there’s a natural bottom to what Trump can get; he’s polling in the very-high 30s, and six months ago, I would have said the same thing,” he said. “What that tells me is that public opinion is largely frozen, and it would take an extraordinary event to move opinions toward Trump one way or the other.”

Writer: Joseph Paul, 765-494-9541, paul102@purdue.edu

Source: Jay McCann, 765-494-0738, mccannj@purdue.edu

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