More than half of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll think Ronald Reagan was the best U.S. president of the past 60 years. When essentially the same question was posed to RBJ readers four years ago, the result was almost identical: 54 percent of respondents picked Reagan then, versus 53 percent in this week’s poll.
A striking change has occurred in the No. 2 spot, however. At 16 percent, Barack Obama now trails only Reagan; four years ago, when he faced a re-election campaign against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Obama ranked fifth with 3 percent of readers picking him.
Bill Clinton slipped from second to third, while John F. Kennedy remained in fourth place.
Over the last six decades, 10 men—five Democrats and five Republicans—have served in the White House.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, 28 percent of Americans say they consider themselves Republican, 28 percent Democrat and 42 percent independent. In this week’s Snap Poll, 37 percent of respondents identified themselves as Republicans, 34 percent said they were non-affiliated or independents, and Democrats accounted for 24 percent.
Among Republican poll participants, the top three picks were Reagan (79 percent), Kennedy (6 percent) and Obama (5 percent). For Democrats, No. 1 was Obama (40 percent), followed by Clinton (26 percent), and Kennedy and Reagan (tied at 12 percent). Independents went for Reagan (55 percent), followed by Clinton (15 percent) and Obama (14 percent).
In a 2013 national CNN poll on the presidents of the last half-century, Kennedy had the highest approval rating, Reagan placed second and Clinton third.
Nearly 950 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Aug. 1 and 2.
Who is the best U.S. president since 1960?
Ronald Reagan 53%
Barack Obama 16%
Bill Clinton 13%
John F. Kennedy 9%
Lyndon Johnson 3%
George H.W. Bush 3%
Jimmy Carter 2%
Richard Nixon 1%
George W. Bush 0%
Gerald Ford 0%
What is your political affiliation?
For information on how the Snap Polls are conducted, click here.
During Bill Clinton’s administration, the economy improved dramatically, the budget was balanced and the federal debt reduced (the only time that has happened in the last 80 years) and the nation was at peace. That is a trifecta that can’t be beat!
—Paul E. Haney
I don’t think anyone has ever done more for this country than Ronald Reagan. He wasn’t a part of the political elite who are above all laws including Obamacare, retirement, etc. I believe if he was still with us, we would have term limits and 401(k) plans for them.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
Reagan knew what he believed and stuck to it. He could communicate it to the ordinary citizen. He had faith in the American system of government, American values and the American people. Not everyone agreed with him at times, but everyone knew what he was saying and why he was saying it—and that he would follow through on it.
During Ronald Reagan’s two terms, double-digit inflation was extinguished, the underpinnings of the best economy in decades were put in place, the communist Soviet Union was put out of business and seeds of freedom were planted in Eastern Europe (which led to the Berlin Wall coming down). The space shuttle program established a permanent place in space. Sure, there were some bad things that happened too. But Reagan was a true leader! He connected and communicated like no president since FDR. American credibility in the world was restored. And best of all, you felt proud to be an American once again! It’s sad how the presidents that followed him have unraveled it all.
—George Thomas, Ogden
I didn’t vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980, which turned out to be a mistake. During his first term he was able to completely turn around a disastrous economy and later on brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. I became a convert and voted for President Reagan in 1984.
Strength and honor … honestly, there’s not much to choose from on the list.
Kennedy and Johnson got us into Vietnam, Nixon was a hack, Ford was an accident, Carter was incompetent, Bush 41 told us “read my lips” then didn’t mean it, Bush 43 got us into a meaningless war, Clinton ran the White House like a fraternity house, and Obama ran the debt to $17 trillion while dividing the country against itself. Reagan ended the Cold War without firing a shot. Enough said.
This largely depends on how you define good. In my mind, it would be the president who has most firmly upheld the principles outlined in the Constitution as well as the principles the members of the constitutional conventions argued for and agreed to. It’s been all downhill since FDR and arguably earlier. If you have a gun to your head, take Reagan (even though he did increase government spending and foreign entanglements). However, you really need to get back to our own commander-in-chief, Grover the Good (22nd and 24th president) and the Vermont product Cool Cal (30th president) before you can say we had a “Good” president. These men genuinely fought to uphold the ideals that this country was built upon.
—Kenya Burn-Moore, Rochester
Purely a guess as each one had their own agenda and style, while facing very different obstacles!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Less dependence on government is the key to our nation’s survival.
I pick Johnson. It was a tough choice against Reagan, who won the Cold War. Vietnam was a travesty. However, on his watch this country passed a Civil Rights Act, a Voters Rights Act, Fair Housing Act, and the Supreme Court approved the Miranda decision. If Truman called our legislative branch the “do nothing” Congress in 1948, what would he have called this train wreck? Think about how intransigent our country was in Johnson’s years to basic citizens’ rights and think of (all) he got done. This Congress today cannot even get a Zika bill passed. Yes, he was extremely crude. Yes, he was clueless about Vietnam. In fairness to him, look what he got done in Congress.
Reagan took the nation that had drifted toward oblivion back on course. He was a political outsider, beholden to no one, who loved the United States of America, followed his conscience and restored American values.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
When Clinton left office, he left with a balanced budget (which hasn’t been achieved since) and with peace in the Middle East that he was instrumental in brokering through improved Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Bill Clinton was one of the few presidents that was able to work with both parties to accomplish things needed by the country. He was also one of the few presidents that actually shrank the public debt in his last few years in office.
—Al Schnucker, Schnucker Packaging Inc.
I’m a Conservative: smaller government, lower taxes, fewer regulations, stronger military. As much as Kennedy said, “A rising tide raises all boats.” Ronald Reagan did the heavy lifting. Look where Kennedy’s and Johnson’s War on Poverty has gotten us. Fifty years and the same poverty rate, 72 percent black out-of-wedlock births, a tax system that drives fathers out of the home. Where’s Reagan when we really need him?
—Clifford Jacobson, M.D.
The best president since 1960 was Ronald Reagan because he significantly improved a few areas (taxes, the economy, law and order, and relations with the Soviet Union) and did not make a few areas significantly worse. Key factors that contributed to his ability to do this were his ability to survive, his courage, his support of and from others, his competence, and his character. Some presidents (and other leaders) who tried to improve things did not survive physically or politically. These include leaders such as Gandhi, JFK, MLK, RFK, Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, and George H.W. Bush. Some presidents caused major problems (Nixon price controls, Nixon devaluation, Nixon inflation, Obama race relations, Obama foreign policies, Obama executive orders) and made some major improvements (Nixon relations with China, Carter Middle East negotiations, Carter zero-based budgeting, George H.W. Bush Gulf War).
—Chuck Masick, mit (magic institute of tutoring)
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