One does not have to stray very far into Republican circles to hear the claim that President Obama is by far the worst ever. Whether it is disdain for his progressive agenda or dislike of Obamacare, many Republicans believe that our current President is the worst yet. However, based on public opinion, Obama is not nearly the worst.
In the late 1930’s George Gallup developed a simple poll that gauged a political figure’s approval ratings. A sample of people were asked a simple question, “Do you approve of the job the President is doing?” The poll is brilliant in its simplicity and avoids many of the tricks pollsters engage to elicit a desired response.
The first Gallup poll was applied to Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR served four terms which is longer than any other President so naturally the Gallup polls yielded the most data points on his presidency. The height of FDR’s approval came during WWII right on the heels of the Declaration of United Nations signed by 26 nations at the Arcadia Conference. That January 8th, 1942 FDR had an approval rating of 84%.
Eisenhower was a very popular President and had the second highest approval rating average at 65%. Even Ike was not immune to a fickle constituency and suffered through peaks and troughs. In March of 1958 his approval dipped below half to 48%.
Although his tenure in the office was short, the most popular President was none other than John F. Kennedy. Kennedy had an astounding average approval rating of 70.1% and never registered an approval rating less than 56%.
Lyndon B. Johnson had an average approval rating that was exactly the same as recent popular President Bill Clinton at 55.1%.
Richard Nixon on August 2nd of 1974 had his approval rating drop from a once high 67% all the way down to a staggering 24%. Even Nixon’s approval rating of 24% does not put him at the bottom of the barrel. That dubious title goes to Truman who in 1952 saw his approval rating sink to 22%. Nixon did have a respectable average approval rating over his presidency of 49.1%.
The other worst President name bantered about among Republicans is Jimmy Carter. If you count yourself as one that considers Carter the worst President, based on average approval ratings, you are close. Carter has the second lowest average approval rating at 45.5% but is a hair better than Truman who averaged an approval rating of 45.4%. It also should be noted that at one point Carter had an astronomical approval rating of 75%.
So roll up your sleeves Democrats and Republicans and get ready to duke it out over who was the most popular President in recent history. Was it Reagan or Clinton you ask? The answer, neither. Actually one-term President George H. W. Bush was more popular than Reagan and Clinton. Bush had an average approval rating of almost 61% which was the third highest in history and the highest since Kennedy. Unfortunately for Bush, his lowest approval came at the time for re-election. As stated earlier, Clinton enjoyed an average approval rating of 55.1% while Reagan’s average approval rating was 52.8% and never went higher than 68%.
So who had the highest approval rating ever at 90%? The answer may shock you, unless you factor in the date. On September 21st, 2001 George W. Bush had an approval rating of 90% in the wake of the September 11 attacks, but he also has the title for the highest disapproval rating of 71% in the midst of the financial crisis of 2008. A 90% approval rating is significantly higher than any other president but one. George W. Bush’s father registered an approval rating of 89% February 28th, 1991, the exact day the first Gulf War ended.
So is Barack Obama the worst President? Based on public approval ratings the answer is no. Obama has an average approval rating of 49%, has been as high as 69% and as low as 37%. Obama’s average approval ratings are higher than Carter, Ford, and Truman.
Time will tell what the final legacy is in the realm of public opinion for President Obama, but history tells us while he is nowhere near the most popular President, he still has a way to go to be dubbed the worst.