Mr. Popularity
07-22-2010
Here’s one for my burgeoning file of pointless opinion poll stories. This one talks about new Gallup data showing that former President Bill Clinton is currently more popular than President Obama, who is himself trailed by former president George W. Bush. So, perhaps we should repeal the Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution (presidential term limits), as I can’t think of much else we can do with this particular tidbit of information, and we already know from Clinton that he would have liked to run for (and probably would have won) a third term.
 
These kinds of presidential comparison polls get a lot of extra attention in the media when a sitting president’s numbers are down (as are Obama's), and they typically feed into the buyer’s remorse meme often pushed by his opponents. The reality is that like virtually all former presidents, Clinton has benefited from the passage of time. He’s just further down the road to redemption than former President Bush. For my readers who can’t fathom an eventual Bush rehabilitation, check back with me in about 10 years, and you just might be surprised.
 
The appropriate comparison is of course to look at public approval at the same moment in time across all three presidencies, so just before the respective first midterm election for each of the three men (1994, 2002, and 2010). I can tell you without even looking at the data that President Bush wins that popularity contest hands down, as the 2002 midterm elections were in some respects the apex of his popularity and power in office. I recently wrote about why I don’t find these sorts of contemporary comparisons to be especially useful.


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