President Trump praised for speech, viewers call it ‘unifying,’ ‘presidential’

Viewers nationwide strongly approved of President Donald Trump’s speech Tuesday night, with many Democrats joining Republicans in calling it “presidential” and positive in tone, according to a CBS News Poll. Republicans and Independents found it “unifying,” though Democrats were slower to come around on that measure.

The president gained support for his policy plans among viewers: interviewed before and after the address, they came away from it more positive on his ideas for the economy, immigration, terrorism, crime and Obamacare.

As is often the case in addresses to Congress, those who watched were more likely to be from the president’s party – in this case, Republicans. And they described a president they felt was keeping campaign promises and offering an “inspiring” message.

In his speech tonight, Donald Trump was…
(Among speech watchers)

                                 Total   Reps   Dems    Inds
Presidential           82%     97%     54%     88%
Knowledgeable     75%     97%     38%     78%
Specific                   73%     91%     39%     74%
Unifying                 71%     95%     36%     73%
Inspiring                71%     94%     32%     75%
Forceful                  67%     77%     45%     71%
Divisive                   39%    32%     54%     33%
Confrontational    30%    18%     48%     30%

While half of Democrats did find the speech “divisive,” about one-third of them also said Trump was “specific” and “knowledgeable;” neither label drew a majority, but nonetheless sizeable numbers compared to the more negative reactions Democrats have had to other aspects of his presidency.
And viewers of all stripes described the speech as at least somewhat positive in tone.

In his speech tonight, Donald Trump’s tone was…
(Among speech watchers)

                                                        Total   Reps   Dems   Inds
Very positive                                  61%     87%     19%    66%
Somewhat positive                        15          9         26       14
Neither negative nor positive      11          3          19        9
Somewhat negative                        8          0          20       9
Very negative                                   4          1           15       2

Overall, most watchers approved of the speech. Republicans did tune in to watch it in much greater numbers than Democrats (as a president’s party typically does) which bolstered those approval numbers. 40% of Democrats at least somewhat approved; 18% strongly approved.

Views of the speech
(Among speech watchers)

                                            Total    Reps    Dems    Inds
Strongly approve               59%    87%       18%     61%
Somewhat approve           17        10           22        20
Somewhat disapprove      14          1           30        13
Strongly disapprove          10          2          30         6

The president moved opinion among viewers on his plans for a number of policy issues, comparing their views before and after the speech. The percent favoring his plans for fighting terrorism, addressing crime, improving the economy, handling illegal immigration, and dealing with Obamacare all jumped.

Favor Donald Trump’s plans for…
(Among speech watchers)

                                               After the speech   Before the speech
Fighting terrorism                        74%                           62%
Dealing with Obamacare             65%                           55%
Addressing crime                          75%                           65%
Improving the economy              75%                           67%
Illegal immigration                      70%                           64%

Republicans and Democrats did see the president’s description of the country quite differently. Most Republicans think Mr. Trump’s depiction of the state of America is accurate, while six in 10 Democrats think the president’s description is worse than the country really is.

President Trump’s description of America is…
(Among speech watchers)

                                           Total    Reps     Dems    Inds
As it is                                 65%    88%       22%      69%
Worse than it really is      24         5           60         22
Better than it really is       11          7           17           9

There is agreement across party lines that President Trump is trying to do what he said he’d do during the campaign.

President Trump is trying to do…
(Among speech watchers)

                                                                    Total   Reps   Dems   Inds
What he said he’d do in campaign        87%    94%     78%    88%
Something different from campaign     13         6          22       12

Reacting to the president’s description of the economy as he took office, Republicans and independents think he did inherit a bad economy, while three in four Democrats think the president took over an economy that was already improving.

Did President Trump inherit…?
(Among speech watchers)

                                             Total    Reps    Dems   Inds
A bad economy                   56%     71%      25%     62%
An improving economy    44        29         75          38

Majorities overall were positive toward his plans for the military, trade, foreign policy, the budget deficit, and taxes. The president won favor from viewers for his plans to build roads and bridges – which was the one issue where his approach appealed to most Democrats as well as nearly all Republicans.

Favor Donald Trump’s plans for…
(Among speech watchers)

The nation’s roads and bridges  78%
The US Military                             75%
Trade                                               72%
Foreign policy                                66%
The budget and deficit                 65%
Taxes                                               64%

For Republicans and independents, the speech boosted optimism about what the Administration will do moving forward. Just a quarter of Democrats felt more optimistic.

How did the speech make you feel about what the Trump administration will do?
(Among speech watchers)

                                Total    Reps    Dems   Inds
More optimistic     61%     83%      24%    65%
More pessimistic    12          2         28        13
No change                27        15         47        22

As is typical for a presidential speech, viewers tended to come more from the president’s own party; in this case more Republicans tuned in. Historically, a president’s partisans are much more likely than others to watch an address to Congress or State of the Union.

Speech watchers and Americans’ party affiliation

                         Watchers    All Americans
Republican         39%                 25%
Democrat            23                     32
Independent       33                     29

The poll was conducted immediately after the conclusion of the President’s Address to Congress by re-contacting a scientifically sampled panel of Americans who had first been interviewed in the days leading up to the speech, and had stated that they planned to watch. A total of 857 speech watchers were interviewed. The margin of error for the total sample is 4.2 points.

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