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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Declining Success Rate on State of the Union

Dominican University of California political scientist Alison Howard and colleague Donna Hoffman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa, have released new data examining how many of the legislative requests President Obama made in his 2014 State of Union Address were adopted by Congress.

Hoffman and Howard developed a tool to assess a president’s success by calculating how many of the legislative requests presidents make of Congress in their State of Union Address get adopted in the next session. Modern presidents (presidents since 1965) include specific calls for Congressional action in their State of the Union Address, with a median of 31 requests per address. President Clinton holds the record for most requests - 87 requests in 2000. President Obama requests range from 21 in 2009 to 45 in 2010 and 41 in 2013. In 2014 Obama made 29 requests.
President Obama’s median full and partial request success rate was about 45 percent during his first term - practically identical to Ronald Reagan’s full terms in office and slightly above the median yearly rate of 43 percent. However, he has seen his success rate decline since the Republicans took control of the House in 2011. In 2012, his full and partial success rate was 21.4%. In 2013 only two of his legislative requests were enacted by Congress for a success rate of 4.9%. In 2014 he fared slightly better, with 13.8% of requests fully successful and 17.2% of requests either fully or partially successful.
Howard and Hoffman have spent the past decade studying how presidents use the State of the Union Address to communicate with the public and request legislation of Congress.
In their book Addressing the State of the Union, Hoffman and Howard explored how and why the State of the Union Address came to be a key tool in the exercise of presidential power. They outline ways presidents use it to gain attention, to communicate with target audiences, and to make specific policy proposals.
In their 2012 paper “Obama in Word and Deeds,” which appeared in Social Science Quarterly, Hoffman and Howard examined how President Barack Obama used the State of the Union Address during his first term, noting both differences and similarities between Obama and his predecessors.