In a recent survey taken by the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of Americans say that former President Barack Obama was the greatest president in our lifetime. According to The Hill, Pew asked the open-ended question “which president has done the best job during your lifetime” to the 2,002 participants. Each person was asked to name their top two choices. Pew then compiled the answers. President Bill Clinton came in at 33 percent, with President Ronald Reagan coming in close behind with 32 percent. Only 19 percent felt that current President Donald Trump was the best president.
The study was also able to correlate the age of the respondent with their response. Nearly 62 percent of millennials (those born between 1980-2000) stated that Obama was the greatest president. According to Time, this is “a higher number than any other generation.” For Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation (those born between 1925-1945), four in 10 felt that President Reagan was the best president.
In addition to a generational divide, the survey found that while most Democrats and left-leaning independents favored Obama, Republicans favored Reagan. President George H.W. Bush was favored by 14 percent and George W. Bush was favored by 10 percent.
As the first black president of the United States, Obama’s election was a historic one. During his presidency, Obama’s frequently had approval ratings well over 40 percent with the exception of his first term in 2011, where the rating was at 20 percent. According to a Gallup poll taken in January of 2017, just before the inauguration of President Trump, his approval rating was at 59 percent.
The survey, which was taken in June, came just after President Donald Trump stated that he “had the most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history.”
In a June 2018 article for the New Yorker, writer George Packer described what he felt was Obama’s mythos.
“At the heart of Obama’s narrative was a belief that progress, in the larger scheme of things, was inevitable, and this belief underscored his position on every issue from marriage equality to climate change.”
In addition to the approval rating of his policies, Obama was often known as “the cool president.” Everything from the numerous dad jokes while pardoning turkeys at Thanksgiving to dropping the mic at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, Obama’s personality seemed to resonate with much of the American populace.
In an interview with Time, Timothy Naftali, clinical associate professor of history and public service at New York University, said President Obama managed to strengthen the opinions Americans have of the government’s action both at home and abroad. He added that Obama is “one of those presidents most aware of history.” He noted that it may be interesting to see what he feels about his legacy in the White House.