President Trump’s Tuesday night State of the Union (SOTU) speech — his first — drew an estimated 45.6 million viewers on the 12 broadcast and cable/satellite networks that carried live coverage of the speech. About a quarter of those viewers — 11.5 million — watched the speech on cable’s Fox News channel.
The Fox News number allows the president to claim the highest rating ever for a SOTU on a cable network. CNN’s coverage drew 3.1 million viewers and MSNBC coverage was watched by 2.7 million viewers, according to a report in Variety.
Trump’s viewer numbers for his first SOTU fell a little short of President Obama’s first such speech. Obama reeled in 48 million viewers for his 2009 debut. But Trump did beat the numbers posted by presidents G.W. Bush (27.6 million) and Clinton (44.3 million) in the first SOTUs.
By age group, the older you are the more likely it was that you watched the speech. According to Nielsen, the total of the average viewing audience (32.17 million) for the networks that showed the speech, 26.62 million Americans older than 55 (83%) watched the speech, compared with 12.37 million (38.5%) between the ages of 35 and 54 (Gen X) and just 4.17 million (13%) between the ages of 18 and 34 (millennials).
Nielsen also counted social media interactions during the SOTU:
[T]he State of the Union 2018 was the No. 1 most social program on Jan. 30, 2018. There were 21 million total interactions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter about the State of the Union 2018. Of the 21 million total interactions measured, 41% occurred on Facebook, 7% occurred on Instagram and 52% occurred on Twitter.
The most social moment on Twitter occurred at 10:04 p.m. ET with 68 thousand interactions as viewers Tweeted in the minutes following Trump’s four pillar plan on immigration reform. The top hashtags on Twitter were: #sotu, #stateoftheunion, #maga and #stateofourunion.
Compared with every SOTU since Clinton’s first in 1993, Trump’s speech ranked seventh, well behind Clinton’s top-ranked 1993 total of 66.9 million viewers.
It is possible that the total number of Americans who watched Tuesday’s speech is larger — perhaps significantly larger — because the Nielsen numbers do not include people who watched a live stream. Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress in February of last year drew a network audience of 47.7 million.