How Long Do State Of The Union Addresses Typically Go On For?

The State of the Union event is a big deal. Not only does it air on just about every broadcast and cable network — effectively disrupting a lot of people's TV viewing plan for one night a year — but it also gives the president the chance to address the issues currently facing the United States of America.

The United States Constitution dictates that a president should give Congress occasional updates. Article II, Section 3 reads "He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

It's a fairly vague statement. There's no indication of how often these should take place as "from time to time" leaves a lot of room for interpretation. According to The American Presidency Project, George Washington set the precedent for annual messages to Congress, which can be spoken or written, but in modern times are almost always given as an address to a joint session of congress. What the Constitution certainly never specifies is how long a State of the Union Address should be, so the length has varied a great deal over the years.

State of the Union Address vary in length

According to The American Presidency Project, the average length of spoken State of the Union addresses has gotten longer over the years. Going back to 1964, Lyndon Johnson averaged 50 minutes and 38 seconds for his addresses. Richard Nixon's average was 15 minutes less at only 35 minutes and 26 seconds, which is the lowest average for any president.

However, entering the 1990s, U.S. Presidents seemed to become more long-winded. Bill Clinton was the first president to crack the hour mark for his average State of the Union length, hitting the 1 hour and 14-minute mark. George W. Bush kept it moderate, averaging under an hour in his State of the Union addresses, while both Barack Obama and Donald Trump would regularly exceed that mark, with Trump giving the longest speeches averaging 1 hour and 20 minutes. Obama's averaged about an hour and two minutes. 

It should be noted that this is the length of the speech when spoken. What's more, these numbers don't appear to factor in the numerous applause breaks that happen throughout the night.