Barack Obama incessantly bashed George W. Bush in both of his presidential campaigns, but it is ironic that comparing Obama and Bush to a candidate is just as bad for voters. For most voters, Ronald Reagan remains the best president of the last 30 years to compare a politician to.
A new Rasmussen survey found that 47 percent of Likely U.S. Voters consider it a negative to describe a candidate as being like Barack Obama, while 48 percent view a comparison to Bush as a negative.
Digging a bit deeper into the numbers and it is worse for President Obama, as 29 percent view comparing a political candidate to Obama positive, while 19 percent consider it somewhere in between a positive and a negative. However, a similar 24 percent say describing a candidate as being like President Bush is a positive, but 26 percent think it’s somewhere in between.
Bush has made remarkable turnaround since he left office, as most presidents do, but the turnaround began when the Boston Marathon bombings became the first major terrorist attack to take place on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001.
In January 2009 just as Bush left office, according to Rasmussen tracking, 57 percent of Americans described him as one of the 5 worst presidents in U.S. history. But by November 2010, 53 percent of voters rated him somewhere between one of the best and one of the worst.
Atop all of the presidents is Ronald Reagan, with 52 percent of voters believing that describing a candidate as being like President Reagan is a positive comparison, while just 25 percent view that as a negative comparison. Nineteen percent say it is somewhere in between.
The conservative standard-bearer saw a bit of a bump from the 51 percent who viewed a comparison to Reagan as positive in late August 2011, and that was the first measurement of a clear majority, but Reagan has always been the best as far as voters were concerned.
Former President Bill Clinton, who once said that “the era of big government is over,” also ranks higher than both Obama and Bush, with 41 percent saying it is a positive comparison to make to a candidate, while 31 percent say it’s negative. For 26 percent of American voters, it’s somewhere in between.
Clinton also saw a bit of a bump from the 38 percent measured in October 2011 that said it was a positive to describe a candidate as being like him. At that time, 24 percent saw that description as a negative, while 35 percent put it somewhere in between.
Being described as a career politician is the worst, however. Just seven percent (7%) of voters consider that a positive description for a candidate. Fifty-three percent (53%) view it as a negative, up six points from 47% in August 2011. Thirty-six percent (36%) say it’s somewhere in between.
As far as Clinton compared with Obama, 62 percent of voters now believe that Clinton was a better president than Obama.
Looking at preference by party affiliation, just 53 percent of Democrats now view it as a positive to compare a candidate to Obama, while slightly more — 50 percent — of Republicans feel say the same about a comparison to Bush. Reagan reigns among his party, with Clinton fairing slightly worse among voters in his party, as 72 percent of Democrats think describing a candidate as being like Clinton is positive, but 85 percent of Republicans say it is positive to compare a political candidate to Reagan.
Voters not affiliated with either of the two major political parties agreement more with Republicans, with 51 percent saying it’s a negative comparison to describe a candidate as being like Obama, while a significantly smaller 43 percent say that is true about a comparison to Bush. Unaffiliated voters are almost evenly divided when asked about a comparison to Clinton, but 57 percent consider it a positive when a candidate is described as being like Reagan.
For a man who paints himself as the “everyday Joe,” Obama is pretty popular with elites, as 72 percent of the “Political Class” says a comparison to Obama is positive, and even slightly more — 76 percent — say the same is true for Clinton.
Unsurprisingly, no doubt because they are more of an “everyday Joe,” 77 percent of elite voters in the Political Class view a Bush comparison as negative, and 62 percent think that it’s negative to say a candidate is like Reagan.
Mainstream American voters, as defined by Rasmussen, are divided over a comparison to Clinton, but 56 percent think it’s negative to compare a candidate to Obama. A plurality (42 percent) of Mainstream Americans agree that comparing a candidate to Bush is a negative, but 62 percent regard a comparison to Reagan positive.
One final note, Barack Obama once arrogantly commented that he wanted his presidency to resemble Reagan as a matter of influence, and admonished the Clinton presidency as not being very influential, at all. Obama told a Nevada newspaper that Reagan had changed “the trajectory of America . . . [in] a way that Bill Clinton did not.”
Ironically, along with his approval numbers in the Bush ballpark, 37 percent of all Americans said in February of last year that President Ronald Reagan was the most influential president in the last 50 years. John F. Kennedy was far behind Reagan with 21 percent, but followed closely by Clinton who garnered 19 percent.
Obama, on the other hand, wasn’t even on the map.
As problems continue to surround the new national health care law, Obama’s approval ratings remain at the lowest levels of his entire presidency.
The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on November 23-24, 2013 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.