Obama Ranked Worst President Since World War II In Mostly Worthless Poll

Obama is the worst President since FDR died? Only if you believe a mostly worthless poll.

Ex-Presidents Oval Office

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, President Obama is seen as the worst President in the past seven decades:

(CNN) - President Barack Obama tops the list of the worst presidents since World War Two, according to a new national poll.

And the survey, released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, also indicates that a plurality of voters nationwide say in hindsight that the country would be better off if Mitt Romney had won the 2012 presidential election.

Thirty-three percent of people questioned in the poll say that Obama is the worst president since the Second World War, with 28% saying George W. Bush was the worst. Thirteen percent picked Richard Nixon, with 8% naming Jimmy Carter.

“Over the span of 69 years of American history and 12 presidencies, President Barack Obama finds himself with President George W. Bush at the bottom of the popularity barrel,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

It’s important to note that Obama and Bush, his predecessor in the White House, are more in the public conscious than previous presidents, and that both have governed during a time of bitter partisanship that’s made compromise between the two major political parties extremely difficult. When Quinnipiac last asked the question, in 2006, Bush topped the list, with 34% saying he was the nation’s worst president.

According to the poll, Ronald Reagan (at 35%) tops the list of the best president since WWII, with 18% saying Bill Clinton was best, followed by John F. Kennedy and Obama each at 8%.

Voters are divided on whether Obama’s been a better president than his predecessor, with 39% saying he’s better than Bush and 40% saying he’s worse. No surprise, there’s a wide partisan divide on this question.

Bush left office in January 2009 with very low poll numbers. But according to a recent CNN/ORC International survey, his favorable rating now stands at 46%, up 11 percentage points over the past five and a half years. His favorable rating, according to the CNN poll, is now on par with Obama.

Not surprisingly, there’s a definite partisan tilt to the poll results:

The results, like those of most questions tracking presidential approval, were highly partisan: 63 percent of Republicans named Obama. Among Democrats, 54 percent chose Bush as the worst, with 20 percent naming Nixon.

Asked specifically to compare Bush with Obama, voters were about evenly split, with 39 percent saying Obama is better, 40 percent saying he is worse, and the remainder saying he is about the same. By contrast, in four surveys taken during 2010 and 2011, Obama was considered the better president by a margin of 6 to 16 percentage points.

Polls like this strike me as being completely worthless in terms of actually telling us anything beyond what the public thinks about the current President’s job approval. Quinnipiac does not appear to provide cross-tabs to confirm this, but it isn’t too hard to figure out that the vast majority of people polled either were not born when people like Truman, Eisenhower, and even Kennedy were President, or their were children at the time and thus don’t really have any direct memory of their time in office. The same is not true, of course, of more recent Presidents such as President Obama and President Bush, or of the Presidents that we’ve had over the past quarter century or so. Obviously, people are going to have a much stronger opinion about Presidents they remember directly than ones that they learned about either in history class, in media retrospectives, or from family members. Generally, the opinions garnered from anything other than direct experience are going to be more positive than the opinions garnered from personal experience, especially when that experience is heavily influenced by the events and partisan battles of the day.

For that reason alone, I would suggest that even including President Obama, and possibly even former President George W. Bush, in polls like this makes them essentially worthless. We already know that President Obama’s job approval numbers are declining and seem likely to stay low for the rest of his Presidency, you can see that in recent polls that I’ve written about before here, here, and here. We also know that George W. Bush left office in 2009 with one of the lowest job approval ratings in recent memory, and that while his numbers have recovered somewhat in the six years since he left office, he remains very unpopular. Indeed, in another recent poll asking respondents to rank the Presidents of the past quarter century, from which President Obama was excluded because he is the sitting President, Bush 43 ranked near the bottom of the list. Obviously, including both of these men in this poll is going to skew the results to the point where they are rather useless and not indicative of anything other than the fact that people don’t like the job the President is doing right now, and they don’t like his predecessor very much. But, of course, we already knew that.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jr says:

    The Reagan ranking is the real problem…..my god baby boomers suck ***.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Well, if a worthless poll makes Obama look bad, we can be certain that modern conservatives will treat it as if Moses brought it down from Mt. Sinai…

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Difficult to see anything here except bad memory and the Mighty Right Wing Wurlitzer.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    A good verification question would be: “Is President Obama an American citizen”?

  5. Brutalfacts says:

    I would say the President outperformed seeing how 40% of the Nation (mostly white, mostly male. mostly older, generally southern) exhibits a blind hatred for everything Obama. Where did the missing 7% go?

  6. Moosebreath says:


    “Where did the missing 7% go?”

    Some of them still believe that Jimmy Carter was the worst person in the history of the world (as stated in The Simpsons)

  7. edmondo says:


    President Obama – He’s doing his part to make you forget W.

  8. Tony W says:

    Setting aside the issue of the demographic most likely to respond to this sort of survey, I find most interesting the delta between the two “worst” presidents on the other end.

    G.W. Bush registered around 1% calling him “the best”, Mr. Obama registered 8 points in that category. Of course Mr. Bush was competing with St. Ronnie for top honors – a problem Obama does not have.

    Have to agree with Jr on the Reagan question – seriously, at what point will we start teaching the man’s actual policies, military failures, ethical scandals and deficit-spending problems in our schools?

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Tony W: A mediocre prez at best, who left office with low ratings, but was rehabbed by a publicity campaign. The Right Wing Wurlitzer again.

  10. JC says:

    Agree on Reagan critics. Greatest President since WW II? Seriously? Based on what? This is a poll based on public likability not policy or achievement.

  11. Tony W says:


    was rehabbed by a publicity campaign

    Alzheimer’s was the best thing to happen to the man, made him a sympathetic figure at just the right time.

  12. Jr says:

    Anyway, if Americans knew their history, Truman would be running away with this thing, followed by Ike.

  13. Kari Q says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but “Greatest President since WW II” seems to have weak contenders. Truman and Ike were neither one particularly impressive. Kennedy and Johnson are mixed bags at best. Nixon? No comment. Ford? Nicest guy to be president during my lifetime, certainly, but that’s about all I can say. Carter? Reagan? I dunno – I might find myself putting Bush Sr. near the top of that list.

  14. President Camacho says:

    Seriously after W gave us the debacles of nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq, spending through the roof, torture, rendition. Wow

  15. anjin-san says:

    @ edmondo

    President Obama – He’s doing his part to make you forget W.

    Well, that’s true. The stock market has recovered and more, the real estate market has recovered, we have regained the jobs we lost in the Bush crash, the banking system is sound…

    Too bad we can’t somehow get back all the money Bush wasted in Iraq. Did you know we could have rebuilt pretty much all of our infrastructure that is in need for what it cost to kill all those people and make the situation in Iraq worse than it was?

  16. anjin-san says:

    @ Kari Q

    You might want to take a harder look at Eisenhower.

  17. President Camacho says:

    @anjin-san: don’t forget to add in the future costs of vets’ health care costs

  18. DrDaveT says:


    President Obama – He’s doing his part to make you forget W.

    Bizarrely, this is in fact true. He is. You can thank him when you grow up.

  19. Eric Florack says:

    Obama doesnt need help to look bad, being quite capable of it on his own.
    and Doug, think, Man…. was there the same Partisan tilt in it when Bush was subject to the same polling questions?

  20. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @JC: I personally (as a history teacher) believe that no one should be asked to rate a President until said President has been out of office 25 years. Also, pollsters should ask, “Who is the first President whom you remember?” Any ratings of Presidents out of office less than a quarter-century should be clearly labeled as provisional.

  21. sam says:

    Dave Weigel on Twitter:

    I’d take this “Americans rate the presidents” poll more seriously if you idiots didn’t just make “Transformers 4” the biggest movie of 2014

  22. grumpy realist says:

    @sam: I was about to quote that myself. Indeed….