Poll says Obama worst president in 70 years, respondents wish they had chosen Romney instead

With all the usual caveats about reading too much into a single poll, let’s read too much into this new poll from Qunnipiac University:

President Barack Obama is the worst president since World War II, 33 percent of American voters say in a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Another 28 percent pick President George W. Bush.

Ronald Reagan is the best president since WWII, 35 percent of voters say, with 18 percent for Bill Clinton, 15 percent for John F. Kennedy and 8 percent for Obama, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Among Democrats, 34 percent say Clinton is the best president, with 18 percent each for Obama and Kennedy.

Obama has been a better president than George W. Bush, 39 percent of voters say, while 40 percent say he is worse. Men say 43 – 36 percent that Obama is worse than Bush while women say 42 – 38 percent he is better. Obama is worse, Republicans say 79 – 7 percent and independent voters say 41 – 31 percent. Democrats say 78 – 4 percent that he is better.

Voters say by a narrow 37 – 34 percent that Obama is better for the economy than Bush.

America would be better off if Republican Mitt Romney had won the 2012 presidential election, 45 percent of voters say, while 38 percent say the country would be worse off.

Missing Mitt are Republicans 84 – 5 percent and independent voters 47 – 33 percent, while Democrats say 74 – 10 percent that the U.S. would be worse off with Romney.

Polls are often a quick way to manufacture news, and they’re used as much to manipulate public opinion as measure it, but this particular survey isn’t the sort of thing media organizations are going to relish putting in headlines and inviting liberal guests to discuss.  I’ve always been a bit suspicious of these “best and worst presidents in history” rankings, because they’re more of a lens for magnifying partisan passions than a dispassionate critique of performance.  That would explain how President Obama ends up as both the absolute worst, and the fourth-best, postwar president in the same poll.

There’s also going to be a heavy bias toward recent memory – would the respondents for this poll care to sit for follow-up questions in which they discuss the best and worst policy decisions of the Eisenhower Administration? – and toward media mythology, which is why a large number of people who could not accurately describe a single thing President John F. Kennedy did will assure you he was the best President ever, the luminous ideal for every chief executive to come after stovepipe hats went out of fashion.

So what this is all really saying is that Obama’s disapproval rating among everyone who isn’t a passionate Democrat partisan is hitting rock bottom, and the passionate partisans aren’t feeling very energetic about defending him at the moment.  This isn’t the first poll to show strong buyer’s remorse for Mitt Romney, who is probably benefiting from the impression that he’s competent, while even Obama supporters are having a hard time making that claim for their man with a straight face:

America would be better off if Republican Mitt Romney had won the 2012 presidential election, 45 percent of voters say, while 38 percent say the country would be worse off.

Missing Mitt are Republicans 84 – 5 percent and independent voters 47 – 33 percent, while Democrats say 74 – 10 percent that the U.S. would be worse off with Romney.

“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.

“Would Mitt have been a better fit? More voters in hindsight say yes.”

American voters say 54 – 44 percent that the Obama Administration is not competent running the government. The president is paying attention to what his administration is doing, 47 percent say, while 48 percent say he does not pay enough attention.

Of course, as we should all remember from the 2012 exit polls, that election had almost nothing to do with competence.  It was all about empathy, the perception that Obama understood and cared for the Sainted Middle Class more than Baron Harkonnen did.  How’s that working out for everyone?

Another interesting thing about this poll, and other recent surveys with similar results, is how a fairly modest shift in crucial demographics can produce tectonic poll movement for those who depend upon identity politics:

President Obama’s job approval rating, inching up since a negative 38 – 57 percent in December, 2013, his all-time low, is stalled at a negative 40 – 53 percent. This compares to the president’s negative 42 – 50 percent job approval in an April 2 national survey.

Today, the president gets negative scores of 10 – 88 percent from Republicans, 31 – 59 percent from independent voters, 37 – 57 percent from men and 42 – 49 percent from women. Democrats approve 79 – 13 percent.

The president gets mixed grades for character as voters say 48 – 48 percent that he is honest and trustworthy and 51 – 47 percent that he cares about their needs and problems. He gets a negative 47 – 51 percent for leadership qualities.

The economy and jobs are the most important problems facing the country today, 35 percent of voters say, with 12 percent listing politicians/campaigns/corruption, 6 percent each for healthcare and foreign affairs, 5 percent for the budget and 4 percent each for education and immigration.

Indies and men didn’t support him all that much in 2012, either.  Women disapproving 42-49 is the crushing blow.  Also, notice how the Number One issue for the Ruling Class, immigration reform, chugs in with a measly 4 percent among actual Americans.  Politicians and corruption climbing into second place isn’t happy news for the people who think the State should run everything, especially if Republicans can do a good job of hammering the essential point that Big Government and Honest Government are fundamentally incompatible concepts.

That’s a bit “if,” but as a snapshot of the evolving national discussion, a major poll showing people writing off Obama as the worst President in seven decades is interesting.  His numbers will perk up after he’s gone, just as President Bush’s dismal numbers are shifting; time heals political wounds.  As I’m sure Mr. Bush would attest, that’s not much comfort in the days after a grim midterm election defeat.  I don’t suppose a spirited debate over whether Obama is more unpopular than Bush, or vice versa, is something either man’s supporters would relish… but it’s bound to be a more unpleasant discussion for those who line up behind the man that’s still in office.