Harris Poll Presidential Rankings: Reagan Best President Since World War II, Nixon Worst

A new Harris Poll of presidential rankings is fascinating, especially when viewed along side a new and somewhat similar Gallup Poll. It finds Americans believe Ronald Reagan was the best President since World War II (ahead of Franklin D. Roosevelt) and Richard Nixon the worst:

Twenty-five percent of Americans rank Reagan as the best president in a survey conducted by The Harris Poll. Franklin Roosevelt was ranked second-best with 19 percent of the vote.

On the flip-side, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were neck-and-neck for the “Worst president since World War II” title. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said Bush was at the bottom of the pack, followed closely by Barack Obama with 22 percent of the vote.

A listing:

Best President Since World War Two:

* Ronald Reagan, 25 percent
* Franklin Roosevelt, 19 percent
* John Kennedy, 15 percent
* Bill Clinton, 12 percent
* Dwight Eisenhower, 4 percent
* Harry Truman, 4 percent
* Barack Obama, 4 percent
* George W. Bush, 2 percent
* Jimmy Carter, 2 percent
* Lyndon Johnson, 1 percent
* George H.W. Bush, 1 percent
* Richard Nixon, 1 percent
* Gerald Ford, 1 percent
* Not Sure, 10 percent

Worst President Since World War Two:

* George W. Bush, 27 percent
* Barack Obama, 22 percent
* Richard Nixon, 12 percent
* Bill Clinton, 5 percent
* Jimmy Carter, 5 percent
* Ronald Reagan, 4 percent
* George H.W. Bush, 4 percent
* Lyndon Johnson, 2 percent
* John F. Kennedy, 2 percent
* Harry Truman, 2 percent
* Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1 percent
* Gerald Ford, 1 percent
* Dwight Eisenhower, 4 percent

         

25 Comments

  1. Does anyone find it interesting that the top rated presidents were the ones that gave the country hope through positive communications, even with the major issues they faced during their term in office.

    Then compare that to the ones rated the lowest and they were the ones more likely to communicate a more negative attitude toward the future.

    RR had his “Morning in America”.
    FDR had his “Fireside Chats”
    JFK had his “Ask not what you can do” attitude
    BC was positive, even during the ML sexual issues.
    Campared to:
    “W” and his “Axis of evil” and his perceived stupidity.
    BO and his divisive 1%-99% attitude
    And RN would be on top had it not been for his China positions and foreign policy.

    It just goes to show that those that give off positive vibes receive positive feedback.

  2. Ok the last post had me questioning but now I am convinced they are only polling flaming idiots that are extreme partisans. Why do I say this? Well first off they seem to have a short memory placing W and Obama way at the top of worst(W. is bad and only counting Post WWII does leave it open for some debate but it is hard to beat Nixon since he soured all following generations on the gov in general). My major issue though is that people seem to not know history.

    LBJ with 1% best and 2% worst???? Are you kidding me, the guy that pushed through the most legislation prior to Obama, gave us civil rights and the great society and he is a freaking footnote in our history, akkk. I suppose they meant “since WWII began” since otherwise putting FDR on the list at all is a laugh riot.

    They have Carter, Clinton, Reagan and H.W. all lumped together by their worst rating yet other than Reagan, who still cant hold a candle to LBJ in amount of effect on the gov and the nation, the other three had very little effect on the trajectory of the nation. Whether you liked it or hated it LBJ had a gigantic effect on the nation and the gov no less the political map.

  3. @MagicalSkyFather..Maybe there are a number of individuals that remember the demonstrations, the war that LBJ kept cramming down our throats, the thousands of men that died in Vietnam, the thousands that lost legs, arms, eyes and normal lives and the acceptance of the American public to degrade these same military heros when they returned to America. This far exceeds the improvements that were made during his presidency and don’t forget, the great Society gave us medicare that is now going to bankrupt our childrens future since we have politicians that will not touch it for fear of losing an election and civil rights would never have occurred under LBJ had it not been for Dr. King.

    Any president that allowed what happened to our military when he put them in the position he put them in and played politics with their lives deserves to be one of the worst that ever served in that capacity. But for those that did not live that life and was not in the military at that period of time, one can not understand.

  4. RP-Positive vibes are in the eye of the beholder. Obama’s 1 vs 99 rhetoric is merely the reverse of Reagan’s discussions of welfare recipients driving Cadillac’s and anti-union rhetoric. FDR was considered by the right at the time to be the ultimate pessimist since he seemed to think that the market alone could not fix the problem and that even if it could the populace would not wait for it without open revolt.

    JFK I am sorry was the ultimate empty suit the guy gave a handful of good speeches but all the real legislation happened under LBJ, he did cut taxes though which explains why so many baby boomer righties love him, even though he sold outthe CIA on the bay of pigs.

    RR’s morning in America didn’t start until about this point in his first term when he was running for his second, until then the economy had continued to suck, many similarities between Obama and Reagan’s election/economic time periods exist.

    FDR’s fireside chats were not really positive but instead a way to get to the public without the medias filter, oddly close to Obama’s weekly streaming video addresses to the nation. Some were positive, some were negative and all were highly politically charged in asking for people to lean on their representatives to push through this or that favored program.

    Carter was filled with hope that we didnt need to balloon the nations deficit and debt to buy the American peoples happiness, he thought we were grown ups…he was wrong and the message was viewed as negative

    Nixon ran as a negative candidate almost exclusively for both of his successful attempts at the WH. Goldwater ran a campaign as hopeful and clueless as Carter later would. Eisenhowers message was in no way positive it was just him.

    The best example I can think of that disproves the positive/negative message meme is Hoover. Hoover was brimming with hope and optimism, that is in fact why he was considered out of touch. Bush II is also a great example, the Axis of Evil stuff only makes him sound a bit like Reagan with his Evil Empire crap but otherwise Bush II was glibly positive. All the way through 8 years of a jobless recovery while wages dove further and further down he just kept telling us to go shopping…well until our debts fell in on us then only stupid people shopped lol.

  5. RP-You misunderstand my rant about LBJ not being higher. I am upset he is not higher on both best and worst lists. The best for the info I explained and the worst for the info you did. Do you really think W., Obama or Carter rises to the level of extreme as LBJ? LBJ’s legacy is everywhere we are just to uneducated to remember where it all began right down to continuing JFK’s stupid Nam escalation which Nixon also continued.

  6. Reagan’s ratings have more to do with mythology than record. Obama’s ratings are more reflective of rightwing media barrage than substance. Interesting how perceptions can deviate so far from reality.

    “people seem to not know history” – TMSF

    Bingo. LBJ had a hard row to hoe and was a giant compared to today’s namby pamby politicians.

  7. Civil rights may or may not happened without Dr King under LBJ. LBJ was famous for hating bigots and being an equal opportunity jerk. What angered him about King was that King didnt say “thank you” when LBJ asked him to jump.

    LBJ had a long history vocally caring about civil rights issues. JFK used it merely as a political football that he dared not touch once in office, in short he treated it like the GOP has treated abortion for the last 40 years. “We are totally against it, so lets do very little about it in reality so that we can keep using it to gain votes.”

    I did not live through that era but maybe that has allowed me to see LBJ through a lens that is not colored by Nam and the protests but instead by his history, and JFK’s for that matter. It is akin to the Hoover/FDR, Carter/Reagan shifts. Those that lived through them HATE the guy who was out of step with the times and LOVE the guy that followed even if many of the things credited to the later occupant of the WH actually began or were the ideas of the previous POTUS that is as unfairly maligned as the one that followed is unfairly credited.

  8. Just focusing on Reagan alone since he is at the top is informative. This is a POTUS that traded arms to Iran, an openly stated enemy of the US and started the nightmare that would become AQ(started under Carter actually though no one wants to give him credit) and to top that off ran from Lebanon when we were bombed like a coward.

    In short he made deals with terrorists, started his own group and funded them that would later attack us and let terrorists run him out of Lebanon and he gets the top spot of Best…reallllyyyyy!!???!!!

  9. W and O rate poorly because they are too recent and the older Presidents because Americans have no recollection of history.

    Reagan and Clinton are about as far back as most folks can remember.

    These polls should be followed by some QA. Something like, now please list at least 5 policies are actions of each President that the most influences your rankings…

    and you get a bunch of people going …. uuuuhhh ummm… gee… oooohhh…. W was a fascist…. ohh ummmm … O is a fascist.

  10. MagicalSkyFather…I go back to my original comment about positive V negative communication. I did not say I agreed one way or the other about any of the Presidents ratings.

    What I said was “It just goes to show that those that give off positive vibes receive positive feedback”. Most eveyone you hear talk about RR will most likely say he was positive about America, even during his first term. My Mom and Dad, even though independant voters who swung between parties in an election, had nothing but good to say about FDR and their comments were about his fireside chats. Unlike Obama that has his major theme about the 1%, how bad it is that they are getting richer while the middle class gets messed over and how the Republicans are only supporting the rich. This does not make people feel good about american, about politicians and about where we are headed.

    As ShannonLee states, those presidents tat are current in peoples minds will rate them lower as all the bad things about them is still in peoples mind. Once years pass, Obama most likely will be thought of much higher unless the Healthcare reform bill brings unforseen debts and deficits never imagines like the Medicare program has brought.

  11. Unlike Obama that has his major theme about the 1%, how bad it is that they are

    Major theme? Attention is inexpensive and most seem willing to pay it… Major theme?

  12. Reagan was an ideological leader. He changed the nation via creating the modern political right. He was their Moses. Big legacy, big impact on history.

    Also, re tangible accomplishments, the Cold War defeat of the USSR must be mentioned. The defeat was so extensive that the USSR no longer exists. It is history. Good riddance.

    Agree or disagree with him, Reagan was a giant.

  13. Yes, Reagan was a giant, but mostly in terms of perception. The USSR was already on it’s way down. Giving Reagan credit for it is a little disingenuous but of course his fans want to see it this way.

    SteveK, the 1% comment goes to RP’s oft mentioned belief that Obama is responsible for the class warfare divisions in the country. Of course the belief is without substance. Messenger vs. message, etc.

  14. Um the USSR began unraveling in the 70′s and the intelligence services knew that. We spent that much on defense on a known phantom power. The USSR going down had as much to do with Reagan as Egypt’s revolution has to do with Obama, coincidence often creates and weaves legends but coincidence it remains. Correlation is often confused for causation especially in weaving legend but they are two different things.

    Reagan is only a giant to those that fail to look at the history and prefer the myth. Otherwise he was a great domestic POTUS at a specific time in which he was needed, he rolled back regs and broke the unions as they were strangling us and he should not be blamed nor used as the excuse to run in the same direction for decades. I do like him but his foreign policy record bit and GOP voters seemed to forget the reality of what he did on that front. Built a massive stock pile of weapons and invaded Grenada…yup thats what he did!

  15. If Jimmy Carter, and his accomodationist foreign policy, had been in office for a second term, then the USSR might still be with us. If Jimmy Carter had been succeeded by Mondale, then the USSR would still be with us.

    In contrast to the worldviews of Carter and Mondale, Reagan recognized the USSR as an enemy. Reagan intentionally scaled up an economic arms race, and Reagan intentionally scaled up the issue of the immorality of the USSR and of East Germany and of the USSR’s domination of the Soviet bloc. He broke them, economically and morally. Dissidents who were inside the USSR – including in Siberia, and who were inside the Soviet bloc, have written of how they were heartened by learning of Reagan’s public declaration of “evil empire”. Previous to that declaration, the dissidents were unsure of how much of the free world recognized the oppression of the USSR. The dissidents were unsure of whether or not they had allies. Jimmy Carter type thinkers gave them no reason to believe they recognized the oppression of the Soviet state. It is easy to say, now: “Oh, sure, everyone recognized the evil of the USSR.” But, take a look, sometime, at Jimmy Carter’s public utterances that we need not fear the USSR, et al. Everyone DID NOT recognize the evil. That is why much of the free world thought Reagan was an extremist fool: much of the world was shocked that anyone would consider the USSR as an enemy.

    So, I disagree with your opinion about the importance of Reagan. BTW, those who agree with me are not mere Reagan fanboys. Our ranks include numerous historians. And Pope John Paul. And Margaret Thatcher.

  16. Reagan didn’t bring about the end of the USSR, he just happened to be in office when Gorbachev was on the scene. Reagan continued polices that had been running since the 1950′s to contain the communists.

  17. It is impossible to understand history and to believe that Reagan “continued polices that had been running since the 1950′s to contain the communists.”

    Reagan understood the Soviets could not compete economically. The west had provided economic bailouts for decades. Reagan stopped those. Reagan began technological military build up which made Soviet equipment obsolete. Reagan put nuclear missiles in Western Europe. Reagan forced the Soviets to increase military spending by 45%. Reagan strong armed the Saudis into tripling oil production, thus driving down oil prices, thus driving down a key source of revenue to the Soviet state. Reagan provided tangible support to the Polish Solidarity movement, then used Soviet opposition to Solidarity as an excuse to rally the West to economic boycotts of the USSR, which included making it difficult for the Soviets to obtain credit.

    By 1985, Soviet hardliners could not hide the economic problems their leadership had created. That is how a moderate, Gorbachev, became Premier.

    Reagan did not “contain”. Reagan declared war against an evil empire, famously declaring his agenda: “we win, they lose”. I could go on to list many other specific tactics in Reagans’ war, such as arming guerillas inside communist countries, and such as increasing radio broadcasts into communist countries, and such as giving the Western world a heart attack by demanding: “Tear down this wall.” It is impossible to understand history and to believe that Reagan “continued polices that had been running since the 1950′s to contain the communists.”

  18. “JFK I am sorry was the ultimate empty suit the guy gave a handful of good speeches but all the real legislation happened under LBJ, he did cut taxes though which explains why so many baby boomer righties love him, even though he sold outthe CIA on the bay of pigs.”

    you are accurate

  19. Jimmy Carter is the guy that began stirring the pot in Afgh against the Russians in the first place. Did you think that was Reagan’s idea? Dude Reagan only extended Carter’s policies ballooned military spending and invaded Grenada. Other than that you are crediting Reagan with the only thing the US did to help push the USSR down the stair case which was our support of rebels in Afgh which was a Carter policy. Seriously read Legacy of Ashes it details clearly what policy decision was made and when as opposed to who got credit in the “liberal media.”

    “Reagan recognized the USSR as an enemy.”
    So he said bad things about them like calling them “evil empire.”

    He broke them, economically and morally.
    This is fantasy they were broken in the early 70′s even by the late 70′s in Afgh it was already over and obvious. We had an arms race with ourselves and it cost a great deal of money all while Reagan has the legend of cutting gov, the man cut nothing but taxes and giving people free stuff is never hard. Cutting taxes without cutting gov and then actually growing gov is childish and is the nightmare we are currently trying to clean up from after doing it for roughly 30 years now.

    You are correct that Reagan did give great comfort to dissidents in the block nations though. That is one thing that he did do and it was good. This is different from him taking down the USSR though, that is where the legend and the reality part ways.

    I would also note that I also think Reagan was a great POTUS and highly needed at the time but it doesnt mean I will sit back and listen to myths when I know the historical reality. Carter’s biggest mistake on foreign policy was not giving Iran arms because as we can see no one blames Reagan for it, though I am still glad he didnt because giving arms to Iran was utterly stupid and a betrayal in my view of the nation.

    You are correct though he did more than extend programs from the 50′s. He also extended programs from the 60′s and 70′s and made some tweaks himself. Most of his effect was psychological on the different dissident movements around the world but in that he had a huge effect.

  20. Mikhail Gorbachev brought down the wall. The German people brought down the wall. A miscommunication between gate guards and their commanders brought down the wall.

    But hey, the world revolves around America, so obviously Reagan did it.

  21. zephyr says 2-18@6:11
    “SteveK, the 1% comment goes to RP’s oft mentioned belief that Obama is responsible for the class warfare divisions in the country. Of course the belief is without substance. Messenger vs. message, etc.”

    For those on the far right, Obama can do no good. For those on the left, Obama could lead them over a clift and no one would complain. For those in the middle that have an open mind, some things Obama does is OK and some things he does is not OK. There are ways to support tax reforms to increase revenues without pitching the 99% against the 1%. Many in the middle do beleive this is divisive government and do not feel good about our politicians.

    And for Zephyr’s information, tax the 1% 50% more and you would not put a dent in the natioanl deficit. Now lets see what happens when all the taxes go up in January 2013 that will provide 500 Billion in additional revenues that would reduce the national deficit. Bet our president still give the sermon to tax the 1% and not the 99%, continue spending that provides 1 trillion deficits and blames the Republicans for blocking everything.

    I just hope you are young enough to be part of the population when this country finally has to face the fiscal problems being planted today. I don’t want anyone that has supported Obama to not be part of the fix when it happens.

  22. Problem is that our fiscal nightmares were planted in the 60′s by LBJ and then in the 80′s by Reagan and lets not forget Nixons lovely HMOs. Ok, ok and a little bit more from W. but the big items come from the 60s and 80s. The major voting block that has controlled the political dialogue during that time all the way up to the W years was the baby boomers…who are largely now screaming that everything that was done on their watch is all Obama’s fault and needs to be fixed NOW or the entire world will burn down.

    Oddly that is what the Greatest Generation was screaming during the 60s-70s and were utterly ignored by the boomers, actually they were called fascists/communists and bigots similar to the current battle between boomers and X/Yr’s.

    The people that will be paying for the debt accrued during the cut taxes and balloon defense spending era are Obama’s largest supporters, the youth. Sure they could be naive or merely stupid and the same could be said for boomers and their electoral habits. In reality the economy hit a brick wall in the 70s and we needed to switch course and de-regulate to allow for growth and the same is true now in reverse. The boomers and the Yr’s are looking for the same thing jobs and access to a closed market that is closed from decades of running in the same direction. We tend to ignore this reality and instead focus on why those older than us and younger than us are so very stupid. Stupid would be sitting and waiting for an economy that has nothing to offer you to finally throw you a bone while it continues to cater to the older generation almost exlusively.

    When Reagan cut regs and broke the unions a great deal of people that were older got screwed to give the boomers more access and the same will happen this time. The main difference between the two is that Reagan began a bubble economy that kept rolling through booms and busts until the last one in 08. Our current pain is due to allowing the bubble to deflate so that we can actually have a stable economy which takes a great deal more patience.

    The “End of America” is not nigh the younger generations can just do math and unless something major changes we cant pay our debts prior to the financial crises no less afterward. We have to re-invent this economy from scratch or we are already road kill and much like the boomers did with Nixon/Reagan we are merely rolling the dice in the hope that we finally get access to the economy and success that the boomers raved about.

    I would also note that you may meet moderates that think he is playing class warfare but I know moderates that think any positive discussion of trickle down economics is class warfare as well. During the time period in which the middle class was gutted we raised taxes on the middle and lowered them on the upper end, they tend to think these events are linked. Do they think that 1% people should go back to paying 80-90% in taxes, no but they do think the current rates are a joke and they now know very well what the GOP means by “broadening the tax base” it means lowering the top tax rate to hit middle class earners like Reagan and Bush I did.

    I do not agree with Obama on everything but him pointing out that those at the bottom have been gutted enough and maybe some at the top can step up for a bit is not even on my radar as far as things that concern me and other than members of the GOP I never hear it as a problem from others. Not that you feeling that way surprises me, moderates and indies are a mishmash of interests, needs, desires and hopes but it is not what I hear in IN even from most members of the GOP(the ones I speak to here have gone downright populist/antifree trade but luckily no pol seems to be offering that yet).

  23. RP-Dont expect the youth to be part of the fix for this debacle in 30-40 years because that never happens they will merely be digging in their heels as part of the problem. Like the greatest generation did in the 60-70′s and like the boomers are doing now they will rail and scream and fight against any change and call everyone names and claim they are just lazy idiots. This is what generational politics is all about.

    They will only have answers they have been using for decades much like the boomers want to cut taxes and cut gov because it worked once in the 1980′s and the greatest wanted to raise taxes and gov because it had worked once in the 40′s and 50′s.

  24. Nothing like being at the bus stop when it comes right along. One minute later and you are cursing the MTA. Much of your term in office is determined by the past administration, the current economy and the world situation. Get lucky and you will rise in the “poll”, which I think suck, BTW.

  25. “For those on the far right, Obama can do no good. For those on the left, Obama could lead them over a clift and no one would complain.”

    You’ve got the first sentence right RP, but some of Obama’s most strident critics come from the left. I certainly don’t know any who follow him blindly; that particular dynamic has long been more at home on the right – up until the TP started shaking things up that is (during it’s 15 – or maybe 16 minutes of fame).

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