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The Chances That A State Of The Union Proposal Becomes Law

You’ll hear a lot of proposals in President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight. But will all the pageantry, policy analyses and political commentary lead to any actual legislation? Republicans control both the Senate and House of Representatives, after all.

As the above chart shows, State of the Union addresses going back to 1965 have had wildly different batting averages, according to research by Alison Howard, a Dominican University of California political scientist, and Donna Hoffman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa. Obama has made a median of 36 legislative proposals in his SOTU speeches (the median for all SOTU addresses is 31). Nearly half the proposals Obama made in 2010 were enacted, according to Howard and Hoffman. (It helped that Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress.) But Obama’s last two SOTU speeches, to a split Congress, featured way more misses — just 5 percent of his 2013 proposals became law and just 14 percent in 2014.

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Note: Howard and Hoffman have not yet compiled data for George W. Bush’s SOTU addresses from 2005 through 2008.

Allison McCann is a visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight.

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