Commentary Magazine


Topic: historical rankings

Likely Voters Are Awful at Ranking Presidents

At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Anderson compiled two lists ranking the 10 best presidents and 10 worst presidents, based on the net opinions of likely voters in the latest Newsweek/Daily Beast poll. Both are worth reading. President Obama comes in second on the “worst president” list, right after George W. Bush. Richard Nixon is rated the third worst and Jimmy Carter is fourth.

But any conservatives tempted to gloat about Obama’s low score might want to reconsider. The real story here is that likely voters are appallingly bad at ranking presidents, and, in a just world, would be discouraged from getting anywhere near a voting booth. Brace yourself before reading their list of the 10 best presidents:

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At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Anderson compiled two lists ranking the 10 best presidents and 10 worst presidents, based on the net opinions of likely voters in the latest Newsweek/Daily Beast poll. Both are worth reading. President Obama comes in second on the “worst president” list, right after George W. Bush. Richard Nixon is rated the third worst and Jimmy Carter is fourth.

But any conservatives tempted to gloat about Obama’s low score might want to reconsider. The real story here is that likely voters are appallingly bad at ranking presidents, and, in a just world, would be discouraged from getting anywhere near a voting booth. Brace yourself before reading their list of the 10 best presidents:

1. Abraham Lincoln, +27 points (28 percent place in top-2, 1 percent place in bottom-2)

2. Ronald Reagan, +25 points (31 percent place in top-2, 6 percent place in bottom-2)

3. Franklin D. Roosevelt, +22 points (23 percent place in top-2, 1 percent place in bottom-2)

4. John F. Kennedy, +19 points (19 percent place in top-2, 0 percent place in bottom-2)

5. (tie) George Washington, +15 points (16 percent place in top-2, 1 percent place in bottom-2)

5. (tie) Bill Clinton, +15 points (28 percent place in top-2, 13 percent place in bottom-2)

7. Thomas Jefferson, +6 points (6 percent place in top-2, 0 percent place in bottom-2)

8. (tie) Teddy Roosevelt, +5 points (5 percent place in top-2, 0 percent place in bottom-2)

8. (tie) Harry S Truman, +5 points (5 percent place in top-2, 0 percent place in bottom-2)

10. Dwight D. Eisenhower, +4 points (5 percent place in top-2, 1 percent place in bottom-2)

Lincoln — great; Reagan — good; FDR — definitely not my choice, but okay, let liberals have their guy in the top three. But hold on here, JFK beats out George Washington? Bill Clinton outranks Jefferson, TR, Truman and Eisenhower? What is Bill Clinton even doing on this list, and how is it that he’s tied with the Father of Our Country in fifth place?

Should we care that likely voters think Obama’s terrible, if they’re also this deluded about his predecessors?

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