Analysis: Most Of Obama’s SOTU Proposals Highly Unlikely To Become Law

According to research done by two political science professors, a large majority of President Obama’s policy proposals made during Tuesday’s State of the Union address are highly unlikely to become law.

Dominican University of California political scientist Alison Howard and University of Northern Iowa associate professor of political science Donna Hoffman compiled a data set of presidential proposals in SOTU addresses since 1965 and calculated how many ended up with congressional approval.

Howard and Hoffman use the following criteria: the number of requests made and then the percentages of them being fully successful, partially successful, or not successful. 

Looking back through Obama’s previous proposals during his addresses, a clearer picture emerges. Over the president’s first six SOTU addresses between 2009 and 2014, he averaged 35 proposals per address. On average, whether the requests were fully adopted by Congress or only partially adopted, Obama’s success rate lies at 31%. That leaves him with a failure rate of 69% throughout his first six years.

Though President Obama’s success rate fared better during his first term, thanks to a majority Democrat Congress, the start of his second term has proven to be far worse.

In 2013’s SOTU address, Obama made 41 requests; only 4.9% became law (just two of the 41), leaving him with a 95.1% failure rate. In 2014, he made 29 requests; 13.8% became law and 3.4% were partially adopted. His failure rate last year was 82.8%.

With the full resistance of a new Republican-controlled Congress, Obama’s trajectory looks to be on par, if not worse, than the previous two years. Based on this analysis, a large majority of Obama’s proposals made in last night’s SOTU address will likely fizzle out as political pageantry and simple rhetoric.

Here is a link to the data sets for all presidents since 1965.

One interesting note made by Hoffman and Howard based on their research: “President Clinton holds the record for most requests – 87 requests in 2000.” His failure rate that year — 69%.


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