March 12, 2024 - 4:00pm

Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech won rave reviews throughout the media, yet it seems to have had no positive impact on voters.

The President’s approval rating in a poll from 8-9 March was 33%, unchanged since November, while his disapproval rate rose by four percentage points in that time, according to polling from Ipsos.

Voters’ approval of Biden has risen a few points on issues voters care most about, such as inflation and immigration, as well as gun violence, climate change and abortion. But on the war between Israel and Hamas, the President’s approval fell by 11 points.

Biden’s energetic performance at Thursday’s SOTU was praised as a refutation of his old-age problem. It received glowing reviews from New York Times columnists who rated the speech “fire-breathing”, “unexpectedly rousing” and “feisty”, while Politico called it “the turn-the-tables SOTU”, and more than a dozen outlets called the speech “fiery” in headlines.

The optimism extended to Democratic donors as well, with Biden seeing his two best fundraising hours of the entire race after his speech.

In reality, the electorate was more likely to have missed the SOTU altogether than to have believed Biden outperformed expectations. Ipsos found that 29% of Americans thought Biden performed better than expected, 12% said worse, 24% said he matched their expectations, and a full 35% didn’t watch, hear or read about it.

The breakdown of SOTU reactions was predictably partisan, with Democrats over 65 most likely to say he exceeded expectations versus only 13% of Republicans. If Biden is exceeding expectations, it’s primarily among people who likely would have voted for him regardless of his SOTU performance.

Even among liberals, Biden’s speech was not without critique. Fellow Democrats criticised his use of the term “illegal” to refer to the man accused of killing Georgia college student Laken Riley, as well as his reluctance to use the word “abortion”. Multiple Democratic members of Congress also held signs during the speech demanding an end to US support for Israel in the Gaza war.

Trump, for his part, has an even lower approval rating: 29%, which hasn’t changed since November. Meanwhile, his disapproval rate has fallen by a single point. If Biden is to win an edge over his Republican rival, he will need more than one “fiery” speech.


is UnHerd’s US correspondent.