The US President's State of the Union Address

Briefing 04-09-2015

Since 2010, the European Parliament holds an annual State of the Union debate in the September plenary session, in which the President of the European Commission delivers an address taking stock of the current year and looking at future priorities. The EU State of the Union address is largely modelled on the US President's annual address to Congress. Every January, the President of the United States presents his policy priorities to Congress. The speech, called the State of the Union Address, has evolved over time. Originally designed as a lengthy administrative report, it is today a strategic political instrument. Indeed, empirical evidence suggests that the State of the Union Address is a major tool in the hands of the President to set the tone for the upcoming congressional session. Moreover, because the address is broadcast on television and radio, and more recently web-streamed, the President can potentially reach all US citizens and thereby influence public opinion with the aim of gaining support for future actions. It is not an easy task to assess the political impact of this instrument as there are many variables. With that in mind, on the one hand, academic research argues that a reasonable proportion of policy proposals mentioned in the address have been enacted by Congress over the years; on the other hand, the State of the Union Address rarely seems to affect the President's approval rating.