More than half of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll think Ronald Reagan is the best U.S. president of the past 50 years. The only other president in double digits was Bill Clinton, who was selected by roughly one-quarter of the poll participants.
Over the past half-century, 10 men—five Democrats and five Republicans—have served in the White House.
With the upcoming Republican and Democratic national conventions, this year’s presidential race between incumbent Democrat Barack Obama and presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney will come into sharp focus. The Republicans meet next week in Tampa, Fla.; the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., is the week after.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, 26 percent of Americans say they consider themselves Republican, 29 percent Democrat and 42 percent independent. In the Snap Poll, party affiliation was weighted toward the GOP, with Republicans at 39 percent and Democrats at 22 percent.
Among Republicans, Reagan was named by more than three-quarters of respondents. Among Democrats, nearly half chose Clinton.
Nearly 900 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Aug. 20 and 21.
Who is the best president of the past 50 years?
Ronald Reagan: 54%
Bill Clinton: 24%
John F. Kennedy: 9%
Lyndon Johnson: 4%
Barack Obama: 3%
Jimmy Carter 1%
George H.W. Bush 1%
Gerald Ford 1%
Richard Nixon 1%
George W. Bush 1%
What is your political affiliation?
When Reagan took office, unemployment, inflation and GNP were all in bad shape and the nation’s confidence was waning fast. Reagan’s unwavering commitment to his long-held principles was instrumental to generating an incredible turnaround. A great lesson for today’s situation.
It is extremely difficult to compare one with another due to many variables. However, I do believe Reagan was much more open, amenable and willing to do what was right for the country, no matter whose idea it was, Democrat or Republican.
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Although I was part of the Goldwater campaign, I have to say that, in retrospect, JFK was the most inspiring president since FDR and the later Eisenhower.
I go with Clinton for two reasons. First, he got NAFTA through Congress. We are a global community, and free trade is an important component in stable relations between nations. Note, I said "stable," not necessarily friendly. Second, in his second term Mr. Clinton worked with an unfriendly, divided legislative branch to deliver some real results. Today, that ability to negotiate/compromise is fading or gone. It has been upstaged by "line in the sand" politics from both the right and the left.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
It was due to Ronald Reagan that I dropped my Republican affiliation and took up as a registered Conservative. Sure, John F. Kennedy was great and even by today’s standards very conservative. Remember he stated, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Today’s Democrats have turned their backs on that statement and now press people to demand that government do things for you. Ronald Reagan believed in smaller government and self-reliance. What made Ronald Reagan so great was he retained his core principles and knew how to compromise when it was necessary-but like John F. Kennedy, never his core principles. As you can tell, I believe that both Reagan and Kennedy were great. Why I believe Ronald Reagan was the best president is because he could honestly relate to the common man and address important issues without considering what the media would think.
—Michael F. Kloppel, chairman, Ontario County Conservative Party
I’m not too crazy about any of them. We don’t seem to have a system that identifies and allows truly great people to run for president.
President Reagan was at true leader in the sense that he believed in American values and excellence. It therefore resulted in the elevation of individual success that government control stymies. —Todd Black, Black’s Hardware
In spite of his poor judgment on the Iran-Contra matter, (Reagan) took the blame for the entire mess (the buck truly stopped at his desk!), stood up to the Soviets ("Mr.Gorbachev, tear down this wall"), brought the country out of a deep recession, and treated the office of the presidency with respect and dignity. He made (at least most of us) to feel proud to be an American!
Hands down, Ronald Reagan. He always spoke from the heart with no teleprompter and had a birth certificate!
—Daniel Mossien, architect
Interesting poll, as this is truly a mixed lot. Reagan and, as much as I would never had said at the time, Clinton are 1-2, but after that it gets tough. Carter and Obama are at the bottom. The rest all had their positives and negatives and are probably too close to call.
—Peter Short, J.J. Short Associates Inc.
It is amazing as I look at this list; virtually every one of these presidencies, and/or personalities, were seriously flawed! I never thought that I would vote this way, but an enormous amount of credit has to be given to Lyndon Johnson, who despite the Vietnam debacle made enormous contributions by enacting Medicare and, against all advice and fierce opposition, the Civil Rights Act. In signing the latter he correctly predicted that this would end his party’s 32-year reign in Washington and “turn the White House over to the Republicans for the next 50 years.” As a Southerner and a Democrat, that took no small amount of courage.
—J.P. Gleason, Gleason Fund Raising Consultants
(Lyndon Johnson) did more than any other president in this period to change the aspirations for many of our citizens with the Voting (Rights) Act and the start of the so-called “Great Society.” You may not agree, totally, with the results some 40 years later, but there is no question Johnson and his political skills changed the nation more than any other president in this time frame. Even with the failure of his foreign policy (Vietnam), his domestic successes should not be overlooked.
Ronald Reagan is the best president of the past 50 years. In 1980 I didn’t think a former actor named Ronald Reagan was a legitimate presidential candidate and I voted for Jimmy Carter, who I also voted for in 1976. However, I completely misjudged President Reagan. His economic policies created 22 million jobs during his administration, he bankrupted the Soviet Union, and countries behind the Iron Curtain were liberated. Because of the Reagan tax cuts, federal income tax revenue skyrocketed. If it wasn’t for Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill and the Democratic House of Representatives, President Reagan would have been even more successful. Tip O’Neill would not agree to reduce the federal bureaucracy and government spending. In fact, President Reagan shut down the federal government at least three times in trying to overcome the big government spender Tip O’Neill. If President Reagan could have gotten enough votes in the House of Representatives to overturn O’Neill’s huge government spending appetite, his tenure would have been even more successful.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.
Reagan always reminded us how exceptional this great country truly is. He made you feel proud and fortunate to be a part of it. He was a shining example from “the greatest generation.” No president from the last 50 years can hold a candle to Ronald Reagan.
—George Thomas, Ogden
Today, it seems even the Democrats like to use Ronald Reagan’s name to lend authenticity to one of their ideas. He is the gold standard—prosperity at home and respect and accomplishment abroad.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
Reagan was the only president on the list that believed in what America stands for (and) truly loved his country. He showed that pride in how he led the nation and governed with belief, confidence, common sense and the highest ethical standards.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
President Reagan was at true leader in the sense that he believed in American values and excellence. It therefore resulted in the elevation of individual success that government control stymies.
—Todd Black, Black’s Hardware
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