During this time of debate many people participate in heated political arguments. The amount of dissent, disagreement, and vitriol reaches new highs as each tries to convince the other of their point. However, one of the most common exaggerations thrown by opponents of the administration is the following: "Obama is the worst president in history!".
The question remains, though, is this true? Is Barack Obama clearly the worst U.S. president in 200 years? If not, is he at least the worst in the past 50 years? After some research on academic discussion and several different polls over the years, the result seems to be "No".
One way to check a president's popularity is to discuss the concept with political science scholars. A variety of academic polls have occurred, from the first at Harvard University (Schlesinger, 1948) to the most recent from the University of London (United States Presidency Center, 2011). To compile this information, aggregate ratings were created using a political mathematical method.
The results show that Barack Obama ranked 14 out of 44 presidents, higher than two-thirds (Historical Rankings, n.d.). This seems a far cry from the worst, with Warren G. Harding, James Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson listed as the bottom three. The wost president in recent history? George W. Bush, listed as 34 out of 44.
However, these aggregations may be off and the opinion of the academic may not meet that of the common man. Therefore, a variety of public polls may provide a more accurate measure of the success or failure of a given president. A variety of polls are accessible, including Gallup, Harris, and Angus Reid. By analzying multiple results a better image can be gleaned on presidential popularity.
According to a 2011 Gallup Poll asking "Who do you regard as the greatest United States president?", Obama was ranked 7th (Newport, 2011). Five percent of those polled gave him that ranking, with only 6 presidents receiving more support. The three presidents receiving the least votes? Andrew Jackson, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon.
According to a 2011 Angus Reid Poll on approval ratings of the past twelve Presidents, Obama was ranked 8th out of 12 (Greeves, 2011). 41 percent approved of his job while 33 percent disapproved, placing him higher than four other presidents. The worst approval rating? Nixon with a 24% approval and 54% disapproval.
According to a 2012 Harris Poll asking, "Looking at the list of presidents since World War II, which one do you think is the best president?", Obama ranked 7th (Corso, 2012). Four percent of those polled gave him that ranking, with only 6 presidents receiving more support. The three presidents receiving the least votes? George H.W. Bush, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford.
In that same 2012 Harris Poll, they also asked, "Which one do you think is the worst president?", and Obama ranked 2nd (Corso, 2012). 22 percent of those polled gave him that ranking, with one president receiving a higher ranking: George W. Bush.
The consensus appears to be that Obama is not the worst president in history. One poll places him as the second worst in recent history, but other polls place him well above multiple other presidents. Two presidents seem to vye for the worst spot in recent history: George W. Bush and Richard Nixon.
We are certainly all allowed our own opinion on how much we approve or disapprove of a given president in history. The problem appears when our own emotion overshadows our reason and we begin to use hyperbole to make our point known. The next time you hear someone say "Obama is the worst president in history!", or feel the urge to say it yourself, perhaps you should take a step back and think... "Is that fact or just opinion?".
Corso, R. A. (2012, February). Among presidents since WWII, Ronald Reagan is the best and George W. Bush is the worst. Harris Interactive. Retrived from http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1508/ArticleId/962/Default.aspx
Greeves, J. (2011, March). Kennedy and Reagan lead list of good presidents for Americans. Angus Reid Public Opinion. Retrived from http://www.visioncritical.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/2011.03.01_Prez_USA.pdf
Newport, F. (2011, February). Americans say Reagan is the greatest U.S. president. Gallup Politics. Retrieved http://www.gallup.com/poll/146183/Americans-Say-Reagan-Greatest-President.aspx
Presidential Ranking. (n.d.). Retrived from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidential_ranking
Schlesinger, A.M. (1948, November). Historians rate the U.S. presidents. Life, 65-74.
United States Presidency Center. (2011, January). UK survey of U.S. presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt is first; George W. Bush in bottom ten; Barack Obama highly rated. School of Advanced Study. Retrieved from http://www.sas.ac.uk/about-us/news/united-states-presidency-centre-uk-survey-us-presidents-franklin-d-roosevelt-first-geo