July 2nd, 2014
08:36 AM ET
7 years ago

Who is the worst president since WWII ?

(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.

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Obama at 41% approval in new CNN Poll of Polls; Congress at 14%

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 at 15% and Obama 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.

Better off if Romney had won?

Forty-five percent of those questioned say that America would be better off if Romney had won the 2012 election, with 38% saying the country would be worse off. Again, it's no surprise that 84% of Republicans say that America would be better if Romney had won and nearly three quarters of Democrats saying things would be worse.

For Romney, this endorsement's close to home

An adviser close to the former Massachusetts governor told CNN that he received a bunch of calls Wednesday, following the release of the poll, from donors who contributed to the 2012 Romney presidential campaign.

Spencer Zwick, the campaign finance chairman for Romney's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, said that he thinks the poll "creates a hope and interest from a lot of those donors who would have loved to seen Romney become president but are hopeful there may be a shot in the future."

"It started a few months ago with donors saying 'do you think there's any shot,' to donors now saying 'how do we convince him to do it.' Which is kind of interesting because they have heard Gov. Romney say 'I'm not planning on doing this again' and I think some of these donors don't want to take no for an answer," added Zwick.

Romney has said over and over that he won't run for the White House a third time.

"I'm not running," Romney last month on NBC's "Meet the Press," a line Romney's used in interviews every time he's asked about 2016. Romney's wife, Ann, has also been adamant against another run.

How many ways can Romney say no to 2016

Obama's job running the government

By a 54%-44% margin, the survey indicates that the Obama administration is not competent in running the government.

The poll's Wednesday release comes as the scandal rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs dominated headlines recently. It's the latest controversy of the past year, following the NSA snooping scandal, the controversy over the IRS targeting of some conservative non-profit groups, and the rough rollout of the new federal health care law.

The President has also faced numerous international challenges, including the new bloodshed in Iraq, the civil war in Syria, and the fighting in Ukraine, as well as the controversial swapping of five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay for the release of a U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan.

"This poll gives a window into the sentiment of Americans at the moment," said CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, who said he suspects the numbers could change dramatically in four or five years.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted June 24-30, with 1,446 registered voters nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Filed under: Mitt Romney • Poll • President Bush • President Obama
soundoff (1,046 Responses)
  1. mister

    Pretty clearly Bill Clinton has been the worst president since WWII.
    Now we stand a good chance of suffering his wife, who would be the second worst.

    July 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  2. On the left

    What would have happened if Romney had won?
    1.) Repeal Obamacare. Mitt wouldn't care how closely it modeled Massachusetts plan. He got to the White House.
    2.) Massive corporate tax cuts, in service to our "job creators".
    3.) Massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to offset the corporate tax cuts, and to get our retirees back on track to productive lives. That's the American way.
    4.) Mitt would sign anything the GOP puts in front of him while he sits for his portrait. What does he care? He got in the White House.

    July 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. BGreene

    broad conclusions from a sample of 1400 people.

    July 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. appr19

    Laughable!!! CNN should up this one up for COMMENTS!! Freedom of speech!!!

    July 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. Tom1940

    Save for G.W. Bush "being the worst" – (I still favor J. Carter, until B. Obama came along), I would agree with this poll.
    Why? B. Obama, like Willy Clinton showed the greatest promise of being among the greatest of American Presidents in a long, long time. But! They squandered, wasted, and generally destroyed any chance they had, during the course of their administrations. Bill Clinton was perhaps the "smartest". But couldn't keep his little head from over-ruling his big head in making the right decisions. B. Obama, cannot keep his "big" head from over-ruling his "common-sense" head in doing the right thing. I don't believe Pres. Obama is as smart as he's made out to be by the Press/Media (i.e. Chris Matthews, who almost pee's his pants everytime Obama speaks), but as a good "average" guy ("let's have a beer and talk this over) – he scores well. Too bade he and Boehner can't have the same rapport – then things would get done. Boehner should have taken up basketball, and Obama should have went up the hill and drank more beer with the boys.

    July 2, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  6. Wendy

    Keep in mind that Congress, Senate and House call most of the shots. They are the ones that need to be replaced.

    July 2, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  7. Hewitt Rose

    Is this poll biased? If you ask a poll question that way, then you get the answer you are fishing for. The poll is little more than mirror gazing by an Obama hater.

    July 2, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  8. dan

    Whenever another big crisis comes, and people complain about Obama, I thank God Romney is not power. We would be obeying anything Israel wants, would be at war with Iran... Romney wanted to repeal even the weak regulations we have set since the financial meltdown, so that the new recession the financiers are setting up for us would already be here - I could not see many women serving under Romney, and it would be a field day for the rich to increase their offshore accounts ... I do not agree with everything Obama has done, but he has not done anything like the lying and destruction of our economy and needless damage to our soldiers that Bush did. I would like to see how the questions for the poll were phrased, and who did the poll. Did they ask how much Congress is to blame for much of the mess we are in? Obama will be in history as a cool-headed President who tried to bring together the country and I didn't even vote for him – but I cannot stand the hate mongering, and we don't have any better right now

    July 2, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. Steve, New York City

    I'm not a fan of all Obama policies. . .but surveying 1,500 people nationwide? Were 80% of them living in rural areas in the south?

    July 2, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Michael Smith

    This poll reporting is garbage! There are over 350 Million Americans, and you only polled 1,446! How the HELL is that any type of representation of the whole population? Polls don't mean squat! Everyone knows that President Obama doesn't need to be 'the best' president to have accomplished what he has during his tenure so far. We can name the list of things that he has had to fix including the ending of 2 wars, lowering the unemployment rate from 11%+ to under 6%, and bailing out 3 of the major industries in America; Auto, Housing, and Banking. This polling data is garbage!

    July 2, 2014 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. SniffTHIS

    Definitely thought GWB was bad, but BHO has taken all the bad parts of GWB and made it WORSE!

    July 2, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. Mike Tyson

    Of course you probably asked a bunch of rich caucasoids!

    July 2, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. Gilbert Sanabria

    Bush II the worst by far followed by the murderer Nixon. History will prove Obama to be one of the best!!!

    July 2, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Robert

    That's their opinion–George W. Bush Jr was the worst President since Wilson And I wouldn't voted for Romney for dogcatcher.

    July 2, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  15. gordo

    Hey Jay Carney....I mean Bruce......try watching something besides MSNBCNN and lay off the kool-aid

    July 2, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. kevikens

    I don't know about defining a president as the "worst" but I do think one could build a strong case that the present occupant of the White House, with his view that he does not need Congress to establish law, is the most dangerous person to hold that office, perhaps ever.

    July 2, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  17. Dory

    Let's keep in mind that much of the population either weren't alive or don't actually know what the policies of the Presidents were since the Second World War. This is such a skewed and irrelevant poll!

    July 2, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  18. Lisa P


    ... Even Clinton got a lot done as the GOPers were trying to impeach him. Clinton didnt walk around all day whining about GOPers and complain every day how he could get nothing none because of those mean GOPers...

    July 2, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm

    Hilarious! How old were you when this happened? Like, two? Is this the kind of history they are teaching you in those Taliban private schools? It's like some kind of bizarro fantasy version of what really happened. The Executive Office was paralyzed for months by the scandal and then the impeachment process on trumped-up charges; President Clinton's ability to get anything done was more or less ended and the nation was forced to drift at a time that real action was needed on the economy, climate change and national security. Thanks to "those mean GOPers" we are in much worse shape now, and the GOP has only gotten more reckless and foolhardy in the decades since. Put that in your Saturday morning kiddy cartoons and smoke it.



    Oh well we survived Carter where Reagan saved us from our darkest economic times...
    July 2, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm


    President Reagan set up our nation for the failure we are facing now. Every man for himself does not build a nation it builds a short-sighted mob of self-centered grabbers, as I believe the Tea Party has demonstrated. Undercut work and fair wages and only cynicism and a lottery mentality remain. Best country on Earth? Hardly. Not even close, in fact, and falling further behind every day, with every tax cut handed to powerful cronies and ideological program cut or budget reduction for the benefit of the folks who do the work but rarely see the profits. God bless American, indeed.

    July 2, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. A J

    In my opinion the two worst presidents since WWII are Reagan and George W Bush. Both have serious flaws which future generations will condemn.
    For Reagan, the issues are Iran-Contra, the AIDS epidemic and the firing of the air traffic controllers. Our country lost a lot of safety and security under his administration.
    For George W, his faults will cloud his administration's history forever. How can we forget him ordering an unwarranted attack on Iraq? Even though Saddam Hussein was a horrible dictator, Saddam helped maintained stability in the Middle East. The result was the rise in influence of Al-Queda, the birth of ISIS and all other factions that are now a big threat to the US.
    And how was the attack on Iraq funded? We can thank George W for leaving the costs of the invasion out of the country's budget. It will take generations for that debt to be repaid. This was the first time that income tax was reduced when the US was involved in a war or other conflict.
    As far as Obama, I don't think he will ever be rated as one of the best Presidents. But with Congress impeding anything and everything he proposes, we will never know what he could have accomplished. Even proposals which were supported during previous administrations are being shot down because they're being proposed by Obama. He will probably be only remembered as the first black President.

    July 2, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Americans have short memories or don't know their own history. LBJ was far worse than any other President since WW2.

    July 2, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  21. Rob

    As someone who voted for Obama in 2008, I think he has done a bad job as president, so I consider him a huge disappointment. Overall, Jimmy Carter still ranks as the worst president since ww2.

    July 2, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. barbara

    I think that we are so lucky that Obama was even interested in the job, given the mess that Bush/Cheney left for this country! It is amazing that he was able to pull us back from the abyss of another depression, in the face of the do-nothing Congress whose inaction is what caused the slower than preferred recovery. That ALONE qualifies him as being among the best presidents that we've ever had. The shame for us is that given his intellect and potential, we are the losers from the Republicans' party of no Congress – What could have been achieved for this country had they only cooperated with him, just a bit!!!!!! I say that we should throw out all of the say no Republicans during the mid-terms, and let's give this president at least one or two years, where he may realized his potential, for us!

    July 2, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. LeRoy_Was_Here

    Worst President since World War II: George W. Bush
    Best President since World War II: Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Amazing that Ronald Reagan wins the poll for best President since World War II. Reagan almost TRIPLED the national debt. Apparently, a majority of Americans think that was a GOOD thing?!?!??

    If Mitt Romney had become President in early 2013, our budget deficit and our national debt would, right now, be MUCH larger. Because Mitt planned to 'attack' our indebtedness issues by pushing for a $5 TRILLION tax CUT, in the best example of upside-down Republican arithmetic yet seen. It is nothing less than BIZARRE that so many Americans seem to think we can reduce government debt by giving the people a ginormous tax CUT. Bizarre.

    July 2, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. App19

    Let's see if CNN can get this right. OPEN UP A POLL ABOUT OBAMA

    July 2, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  25. s~

    Well, he certainly is one of two worst, for sure.

    July 2, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
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