White House Touts Citizen Responses to State of the Union

The Obama administration is collecting sentence-by-sentence responses to the speech using a new digital tool.

Less than three hours after President Obama completed his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the White House had already posted a collection of citizen responses to the speech.

The selected statements -- all supportive of the president -- came from three people using “Citizen Response,” a tool developed by the White House’s digital strategy office that allows people to highlight and comment on each sentence of the speech. The three statements supported the president’s commitments to civilian training for returning veterans, raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour and bringing gun control legislation to a vote in Congress.

People who use the tool to leave statements are asked to submit their email addresses for “follow ups and general updates.” It’s not yet clear how the White House will use the information or if it will release metrics about positive and negative responses.

Citizen Response was part of a weeklong push to use digital media to enhance citizens' connections with priorities in the president’s speech.

The push began immediately following the speech, when a collection of White House advisers answered questions about the president’s priorities submitted through social media and by a live audience. About half the questions asked during the event were submitted via social media. Some 60,000 people were watching a live stream of the event by the time it concluded around 11:30 p.m. EST, according to White House Digital Strategy Director Macon Phillips, who moderated the panel.

The president on Thursday will answer questions posed by citizens during a Google Hangout. Google will select the questioners. Other administration officials are participating in similar hangouts throughout the week. More information about the hangouts is here.

Only one petition related to the State of the Union had been posted to the White House’s online petition site We the People Wednesday afternoon. The petition asked the president to “stop using the ‘wives, mothers, & daughters’ rhetorical frame that defines women by their relationships to other people.”

It cited this line from the president’s address: “We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic violence.”

The petition had received about 800 signatures as of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. We the People petitions must garner at least 100,000 signatures in one month to receive an official White House reply.