The Worst Polling Question Since WWII

Jesse Singal doesn’t take seriously the new Quinnipiac poll that’s burning up the blogosphere:

Not surprisingly, a new poll suggesting that Americans think Obama is the worst president since World War II is getting a fair amount of attention, particularly among gleeful conservatives. Thirty-three percent of the respondents, who were offered a list of the 12 U.S. presidents since the war, picked Obama. George W. Bush wasn’t far behind, at 28 percent.

Jonathan Bernstein is blunt:

[T]he 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.

Aaron Blake sees a pattern:

As our own Philip Bump noted, the last time Quinnipiac asked the same question, in 2006, the American people also chose the current president, then George W. Bush. Going back even further, this question has proven similarly unkind to those who have made the poor decision to be president too close to when the poll was conducted.

[Here] are similar polls from Gallup in 1999 and 2000. Guess who just happened to place second? The guy who was in the White House! Bill Clinton even got more votes than Jimmy Carter, who to this day is basically the guy Republicans point to when they want to reference a bad Democratic president.

Weigel weighs in:

Once you process the old results, this poll looks like most polls in 2014—the president has lost independents, and voters have stopped hating George W. Bush so much. (He paints so well!) If you look at the crosstabs, the percentage of people calling Obama “honest and trustworthy” has actually stabalized and risen since 2013; the percentage calling him a strong leader, also stable.

If you ask me, the truly humiliating number for Democrats comes later, when by a 45–38 margin voters say “the nation would be better off” had Mitt Romney won the presidency. Someone at the White House is reading that, then stewing about how it was just a month ago that the job market returned to its 2008 peak, then bouncing a tennis ball against the way with with increasing force and fury.

Arit John, for his part, points to “the actual worst thing in the poll for Obama”:

“American voters say 54 – 44 percent that the Obama Administration is not competent running the government.” Politico’s Mike Allen agreed, flagging that number as of most concern to the White House this morning. This is the second recent poll to give the president or his administration a bad rating on a “competency” question: an earlier NBC/WSJ poll found that just half of Americans believe Obama is a competent leader of the federal government.

Vinik looks to the future:

The first thing to remember is that presidential approval ratings almost always rise once they leave office. In 2013, Gallup released polling data on John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. All saw their approval ratings increase after their presidencies. Despite the fact that millions of Americans still blame George W. Bush for the weak recovery, even he has seen his approval rating tick up in recent years.

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As the current president, Obama has not yet had the opportunity to capture this post-presidency favorability boost. Five years from now, Americans will almost certainly look back with fonder memories of his time in office.

This might help:

[A] report from the Commonwealth Fund, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, credits President Barack Obama’s health reform law with an estimated 20 million enrollments as of May 1.