President Joe Biden delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, and for a politician described in the media as overwhelmingly popular, not very many Americans actually tuned in to hear him.
In fact, initial estimates showed just over 11 million people watched the president’s remarks on the four main broadcast networks — far fewer than his predecessor, according to the Washington Examiner.
Breakdown of Biden’s dismal ratings
Across the same four broadcast networks, Trump attracted about 22.7 million viewers during his 2017 address, reports noted.
Even though Biden’s figures were later revised upward to include ratings from various other cable news networks, the total still paled in comparison to former President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress.
In an update, Deadline reported the initial 11.6 million figure increased to about 22.6 million after including the results from CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.
By way of comparison, Trump drew roughly 43 million viewers in 2017 across all seven channels.
Another update early Thursday morning brought the grand total of Biden’s combined viewership across 16 networks — after adding in CNBC, Fox Business Network, Newsmax, NewsNation, Newsy, PBS, Telemundo, and Univision — to just under 27 million. Even though Trump’s 2017 speech aired on fewer channels overall, he garnered a grand total of 47.7 million combined viewers — or nearly 21 million more than his successor.
Comparison to Biden’s predecessors
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the dismal total for Biden’s first speech to Congress represented the lowest total since the era of cable news took off in the 1990s.
The previous low came in 2001 when then-President George W. Bush attracted 39.79 million viewers. The highest combined total was the 1993 speech delivered by Bill Clinton.
Following Clinton’s 66.9 million viewers was Barack Obama’s 2009 address, which received 52.37 million, and then Trump’s 2017 speech.
Deadline pointed out that a new president’s joint address, which is similar to the State of the Union addresses that come later in an administration, is typically the most-viewed speech to Congress by any commander in chief.
Trump proved to be no exception to that rule, as evidenced by a 2020 address that attracted 37.17 million viewers, or nearly 10 million fewer than his first such speech. Of course, even his least-watched address still drew in about 10 million more viewers than what is expected to be Biden’s most-watched speech.