Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Community News Network

July 2, 2014

Best president? Worst president? Don't read too much into those polls

A Quinnipiac poll that is getting some attention today finds that "Obama is first as worst president since World War II."

Ignore those polls!

This new Quinnipiac poll does provide further evidence that President Barack Obama's mild rally that began late last year has stalled or reversed. He's a at 40 percent approval in this survey. More importantly, the HuffPollster average has him at 44 percent. Their "less smoothing" version, which is more sensitive to recent changes, has him a bit below 43 percent. Those aren't strong numbers.

But the questions about who are the best and worst post-WWII presidents are useless.

What they mainly show is that Republicans are far more unified around a single story than are Democrats.

I'll explain. On "best president," Republicans are unified around Ronald Reagan: 66 percent pick him, with no one else getting more than 6 percent. Republicans are similarly in agreement on "worst president," with Obama clobbering Jimmy Carter, 63 percent to 14 percent, and no one else better than 5 percent.

Democrats, however, have a competitive race for best president: Bill Clinton, at 34 percent, John Kennedy and Obama, at 18 percent. For worst president, Democrats again split between George W. Bush, at 54 percent, and Richard Nixon, at 20 percent.

With Republicans united and Democrats split, the "winners" simply reflect that Republican unity, so Reagan wins "best" and Obama "worst." That would be the case even if Obama was quite a bit more popular.

This might reflect more efficient Republican transmission of talking points from elites to the rank-and-file. But it might just as well reflect the happenstances of history. Democrats have several reasonable candidates to choose from. Clinton and Kennedy were very popular; Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman had impressive accomplishments, along with the wars that made each unpopular while in office.

Republicans? They're not going to choose Richard Nixon or, most likely, Gerald Ford. Both Bushes were unpopular while in office, and don't really have the historical stature to overcome that. Dwight Eisenhower was an excellent president, but his views were very removed from contemporary mainstream conservatism, and at any rate the 1950s are ancient history to most respondents. Of course they'll pick Reagan. And it's no surprise that they choose the current occupant of the Oval Office over long-gone Carter, either, let alone the popular Clinton.

All of that should work out the way it has without any Fox News prompting.

And none of it tells us anything interesting about public opinion of recent presidents. For example, do Republicans ignore Ike because he isn't conservative, because his presidency was too far in the past, or because they just like Reagan better? We can't even begin to guess from these data. The comparison questions just don't work.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.