What Was The Most Watched State Of The Union Address Of All Time?

The State of the Union Address by the United States President is one of the biggest annual political events. It gives the president time to outline plans to tackle issues facing the country and to update lawmakers as well as the rest of the nation on the current condition of the United States.

Broadcasting hasn't been around for every president's State of the Union address, and certainly there are more people now as a potential audience than in the days of, say, George Washington. But since the addresses have been broadcast, millions of people have tuned in, and it's typically shown on all major broadcast and cable news networks. But which address drew the highest ratings, or the most television viewers? It's not quite as simple as looking at the numbers. There's a strange bit of complication to that question because it has to be noted what constitutes a State of the Union Address.

According to The American Presidency Project, Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution states that sitting presidents must offer a State of the Union Message to Congress. This can be in the form of a speech or a written message. However, an address given to a joint session of Congress in the year of a president's first term is technically not considered a State of the Union address, although they are often included when discussing State of the Union addresses.

Which speech drew the most viewers?

That pesky distinction of what is and isn't a State of the Union Address means there are sort of two answers. The most viewers of a speech that was quite similar to a State of the Union address came in 1993, when Bill Clinton addressed a joint session of Congress. According to Teaching American History, Clinton's address took place on February 17, only about a month after taking office. The speech drew 66.9 million viewers, per CNBC, but technically speaking, since it was in Clinton's first term it wasn't a State of the Union address, though it often is considered to be so, at least in spirit and tone.

The State of the Union Address with the most viewers that was a bona fide State of the Union Address came a decade after Clinton's 1993 address. George W. Bush was two years into his first term in office when he addressed a joint session of Congress and the nation. According to The Washington Post, Bush's address was given on January 28, 2003, and dealt with rebuilding the economy and updates on military operations in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including reasons for the decision to invade Iraq.