Interest in the State of the Union address under President Obama continued to decline Tuesday, as his final such speech to the nation dipped from last year for the annual event’s smallest tune-in since Nielsen began tracking viewership in the early 1990s.
According to Nielsen estimates, an average audience of 31.3 million watched the SOTU address on a dozen broadcast and cable networks live and tape-delayed on Univision. Last year’s address ended up averaging 31.7 million viewers across networks — the second smallest SOTU crowd in the past 20 years, slightly ahead of the 31.5 million who watched President Clinton’s final address.
Presidents, especially those in office for two terms, tend to see dwindling returns for their State of the Union addresses, and that has certainly been the case with President Obama. Since attracting a whopping 52.37 million for his first address in 2009, tune-in has dropped with each year: 48 million in 2010, 42.8 million in 2011, 37.7 million in 2012, 33.5 million in 2013, 33.3 million in 2014 and 31.7 million a year ago.
Nielsen doesn’t officially release State of the Union ratings info for the broadcast networks, as the program will be sustained and not counted in nightly or season averages. CBS said, though, that it drew the most viewers of any network with 6.9 million.
On the cable side, CNN edged past Fox News Channel in total viewers (3.49 million to 3.47 million), with MSNBC third (2.52 million), according to preliminary Nielsen estimates. CNN was the clear leader in the news demo of adults 25-54 (1.303 million), followed by FNC (753,000) and MSNBC (604,000).
Combined, the three cable news networks were actually up vs. last year, averaging 9.47 million total viewers — up 18% from 8.02 million a year ago. And in adults 25-54, this year’s 2.66 million was 15% higher than last year’s 2.33 million.
In the 11 p.m. ET hour when the networks offered up analysis of the speech and Republican response, Fox News drew 2.42 million viewers, well ahead of MSNBC (1.32 million) and CNN (1.31 million). The Turner network held a slight lead in the demo (533,656), with FNC a close second (511,437) and MSNBC third (325,890).
According to Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, roughly 9.8 million people in the U.S. saw one or more of 2.6 million tweets send about the 2016 State of the Union on Tuesday — nearly identical to Twitter traffic a year ago when 9.7 million people saw 2.6 million tweets. The most tweeted minute of the night was at 10:10 p.m. ET, when 30,600 tweets were sent following the President’s closing remarks.
The most popular subjects of tweets during the State of the Union were foreign affairs (23%), energy and environment (21%) and the economy (18%), according to Twitter. The presidential candidates mentioned most often in tweets on the night were Donald Trump (36%), Hillary Clinton (19%) and Bernie Sanders (14%).