In late June 2018, multiple conservative web sites started to circulate a graphic purportedly showing a “new” poll in which former U.S. president Barack Obama had been ranked “the worst president since World War II.”
Although this claim originated with obscure blogs such as Right-Mind.us, it reached a much wider audience when it was pushed out on social media by right-wing pundits such as Chuck Woolery and Dinesh D’Souza:
The referenced poll was real, but it was not “new” or “recent”: the poll was conducted by Quinnipiac University and released on 2 July 2014, information which was rarely (if ever) noted in mid-2018 postings about it. Also unnoted was the fact that the same independent polling site conducted a poll on the same question in March 2018 (which as of June 2018 would actually be considered “new” and “recent”) and found that Donald Trump had eclipsed Barack Obama as the worst president since World War II.
In addition to Chuck Woolery’s tweet claiming that this was years-old poll was actually “new,” an article published on Blunt Force Truth — the inaccurately named blog promoting the former game show host’s podcast of the same name — presented this poll as if it were evidence of how the “media flattery” of Obama was receding from memory, and how Trump was exposing Obama’s failures:
No wonder there is such a rush to build that ugly monument to Barack Obama in Chicago: the bloom is already off his rose. I suppose it was inevitable that the tidal wave of media flattery would recede from memory and allow the hollowness of his two terms in office to be perceived by those who don’t think critically about what they see in the media. But now that President Trump is demonstrating the bankruptcy of the Obama administration economic and foreign policies with solid results that vividly contrast Obama’s failures, a new poll has identified him as the worst president since World War II.
This was not just a misunderstanding, but a blatantly false statement: the referenced poll was several years old and was conducted while Barack Obama was still in office, so its results in no way reflected a more distanced, retrospective view of the former president.
When Quinnipiac University polled American voters on the same question in March 2018, two months before blogs and pundits regurgitated the 2014 poll as “recent,” they found that voters believed Donald Trump had far surpassed Barack Obama as worst president since World War II:
Donald Trump is the worst of the 13 presidents who have served since the end of World War II, 41 percent of American voters say, followed by 21 percent who list Barack Obama and 10 percent who cite Richard Nixon, in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today.
Looking at the best president since 1945, 28 percent say Ronald Reagan. Another 24 percent list Barack Obama, with 10 percent each for Bill Clinton and John Kennedy.
President Trump is fifth on the list, with 7 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University Poll finds.
In 2014, only 8% of voters named Barack Obama as the best president since World War II, but that number rose to 24% (second only to Ronald Reagan’s 28%) in the 2018 poll. The more recent Quinnipiac University survey found that only 7% of respondents named Donald Trump “best president” in 2018.
Estepa, Jessica. “Quinnipiac Poll: 41% Say Trump Worst President Since World War II.”
USA Today. 7 March 2018.
Jackson, David. “Poll: Obama ‘Worst President’ Since World War II.”
USA Today. 2 July 2014.