A dumb poll irrespective of the outcome.
But worth publicizing, as it’s sure to irritate Trump if he gets wind of it and then we’ll get a fun, pissy presidential tweet about it.
In fairness to O, he’s a deserving winner. How many other presidents can say that on their watch their party [checks notes] lost control of government at every level?
Overall 31 percent of Americans say Obama did the best job followed by 21 percent who said so of Reagan, then 13 percent who said so of Clinton, and finally 10 percent who said that of Trump. The ranking shifts slightly if you combine first and second choice for “best president.” In that case Obama still leads with 44 percent but Clinton is a narrow second over Reagan (33 percent versus 32) with Trump fourth at 19.
The reason the poll is dumb, of course, is because there’s a heavy recency bias. Grandma and grandpa eventually die and are replaced in the electorate by kids whose only memory is of the last president. Even younger senior citizens are more likely to name Reagan or Obama when asked about this than a president from their youth. Memories fade with time. Any POTUS who leaves office with a solid job approval rating is destined to have a fan club for “best president,” and the more recently that president held office, the bigger his fan club is likely to be. Hence the relatively strong showing among Republicans by Trump, who’s the first or second choice for 40 percent of them — second only to Reagan at 57 percent. Pity the Bushes, one of whom was ousted after one term and another who left office after a famously dismal second term. It was “their” party for the better part of 30 years and yet they trail all four other presidents elected since 1980 in the “best” charts.
To me, the most interesting thing about the data is how glowing the Reagan and Kennedy halos remain, 30 and 55(!) years after they left office, respectively. For all the hype about how popular Trump is with Republicans — and he is! — he has barely more than half the number of GOPers that Reagan has who call him the best president of their lifetimes. As for JFK, it will always surprise me how well he still fares among older presidents, particularly relative to his immediate contemporaries. You can understand the Democratic preference for him over LBJ, whose presidency was more consequential and whose Great Society platform was much close to where the party is today. LBJ’s legacy is Vietnam, after all, so he’s bound to trail in people’s memories. But Eisenhower was a popular president and would be remembered by most people old enough to remember Kennedy. Yet Kennedy not only has more Democrats who prefer him to Eisenhower, he has more Republicans who do. The myth of Camelot still hasn’t burned out.
Exit question: How long before Trump passes Reagan on this list among Republicans? Next year or end of his term? It depends on whether he’s reelected, right?