Poll of the week: A new Fox News poll finds that 42% of voters say history will remember President Donald Trump as one of the worst presidents ever.
An additional 8% say he will be remembered as below average, while 22% say one of the greatest, 16% say above average and 10% say below average.
What’s the point: With the Trump presidency coming to a close, historians and Americans alike are starting to put Trump in historical perspective. How they think of him now versus in a few years may change.
Still, it’s very clear that historians and a lot of voters believe history will remember Trump as one of the worst ever, while a not insignificant amount will see him as one of the best ever.
Pollsters have been asking Americans about how history will take stock of different presidents at the end of their presidencies since Gerald Ford.
No president has garnered as many strongly negative feelings as Trump. The only president who came even close to getting as many low ratings (in a five-category question) was George W. Bush in a Gallup poll at the end of his presidency; 36% said he would go down as a “poor” president.
(Gallup’s five-tier system is outstanding, above average, average, below average and poor.)
Americans are usually fairly resistant to giving such a low rating as they have assigned to Trump. No other president hit even 20% for the lowest rating. The average percentage for the lowest rating (either poor or one of the worst) had been 14% before Trump.
Some of what’s happening here is polarization. Americans are increasingly likely to feel either strongly positive or negative about politicians with little in-between room.
The 22% who rank Trump as one of the best ever is the highest percentage in the top category for any president at the end of their time in office.
Even so, the negative beliefs about Trump’s presidency are greater than you’d expect based on polarization alone.
The percentage who rank Trump in the top category is only 13 points above the historical norm, while the percentage who rank him in the lowest is 28 points higher than the historical norm.
Only 17% told Marist College pollsters that Barack Obama would be remembered as one of the worst ever presidents.
There was far less vitriol toward the previous presidents who were defeated for a second term in office (Ford, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992). Just 7% said history would remember Ford as a poor president. It was 15% for Carter and 4% for Bush.
The high percentage of Americans who say Trump will go down as one of the worst presidents lines up with what historians have been saying for years.
Historian ratings are, of course, subjective to some degree. They aren’t perfect, and I have a number of qualms with them. The graders are more liberal than the country as a whole and who is deemed a good president today may change in a couple of decades. We’ve seen this before.
Even with those qualifications, these rankings do tend to line up with how history remembers presidents.
Trump has generally been rated with James Buchanan as the worst president ever. This has been consistent across different surveys of experts.
As I pointed out earlier this year, the way Trump could have moved up in the rankings was by winning a second term. That didn’t happen and may never happen (unless Trump wins in 2024).
Trump’s low ratings get at something that I’m not sure has ever been fully appreciated. Yes, Trump certainly has his loyal base (as indicated by the 22% of voters who say history will remember Trump as one of the best presidents ever).
Yet, those who think of him as a failure have pretty much always been a larger chunk of the pie.
Before we bid adieu: The theme song of the week is St. Elsewhere theme song.