A new poll naming President Barack Obama as the worst American president, in the opinion of Americans, sent waves of excitement through the political blogosphere Tuesday, receiving breathless coverage in media outlets ranging from major news organizations such as CNN and Time Magazine, to niche political blogs like the left-wing MediaIte and right-wing NewsBusters, to cite just a couple of examples.
Even The Inquisitr devoted some virtual ink to this apparently explosive Quinnipiac Poll result, which appears to reflect a disaster for Barack Obama.
There’s only one problem. The poll is completely and utterly meaningless. Here’s why.
The reasons why the Quinnipiac Poll naming Obama as the worst president since World War II is a waste of time have nothing to do with whether Barack Obama is indeed the worst president since 1945. Or the best. Or somewhere in between. That judgment is, of course, a matter of personal opinion to which, this being America, each individual in perfectly entitled.
Rather, the poll is ridiculous because of what it actually showed. Namely, that Democrats have varied opinions of various presidents. But Republicans really love Ronald Reagan, can’t stand Obama — and don’t have strong opinions about anyone else. In other words, Republicans think alike, Democrats disagree with each other — a very old political narrative.
Bloomberg Business News columnist Jonathan Bernstein took a closer look at the numbers, as did MSNBC Online‘s Steve Benen, and both found that while Republicans overwhelmingly named Reagan as the best U.S. president since World War II, they didn’t have strong feelings about any other president, Democrat or Republican. No other president received more than 10 percent of Republican responses to the “best president” question, but Reagan captured well over 60 percent.
Democrats, however, divided their choices over several presidents, with the largest portion — just over 30 percent — naming Bill Clinton as the best, but Obama and John F. Kennedy each took nearly 20 percent, while Lyndon Johnson and even Reagan had more than five percent of Democrats choosing them as the best. (Benen’s charts included only presidents who scored greater than five percent from either party.)
“When we look at the overall results and see Reagan in the #1 slot, it’s the result of a simple dynamic,” Benen wrote. “Democrats split their vote and Republicans didn’t.”
A similar partisan distinction occurred on the “worst president” question. Republicans overwhelmingly named Obama as the worst U.S. chief executive since 1945. Otherwise, only Jimmy Carter barely topped 10 percent among Republicans.
But as much as Democrats loathed George W. Bush — slightly more than 50 percent — they also remembered enough history to recall that Richard Nixon was also, in their opinion, a terrible president. Nixon got 20 percent of Democratic “worst” responses.
“With Republicans united and Democrats split, the ‘winners’ simply reflect that Republican unity, so Reagan wins ‘best’ and Obama ‘worst,'” wrote Bloomberg’s Bernstein, dismissing the Quinnipiac Poll as a “worthless” and “useless” exercise. “That would be the case even if Obama was quite a bit more popular.”