Obama unlikely to go down in history as a great president

January 20, 2016, 6:47 PM UTC

Only Richard Nixon and George W. Bush tend to be seen as worse presidents than Barack Obama

As Barack Obama gave his last State of the Union address before leaving the White House in early 2017, he presented an optimistic view of America's future and condemned those who sow fear to win political office. Obama has undoubtedly been one of the most controversial presidents in recent years and the widely acknowledged vitriol in politics today in part reflects the political victories he and liberals have had during his presidency. If the major laws and decisions of his presidency survive the coming election, then his presidency may be regarded as a pivotal moment in American history, much like those of Reagan or Roosevelt. 

YouGov's latest research shows that far from sharing his optimism about his presidency many Americans, including more than a few Democrats, don't see Obama as having done an excellent job. There are only two recent elected presidents, George W. Bush and Richard Nixon, who are more likely to be seen as worse than Obama rather than better than Obama. 42% of Americans, including 11% of Republicans and 36% of independents, say that Obama was better than the second Bush and 39% say that he was better than Nixon. 32% of Americans, including nearly two-thirds of Republicans (64%) say that Obama has been a worse president than Nixon, however. 

Compared to the two most recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, the public tends to say that he has been a worse president. Democrats tend to say that Obama was about as good as Clinton (35%), though nearly half of Democrats (49%) think he did a better job than one-term president Jimmy Carter. 

This gap in intensity, between a slight Democratic ambivalence and vehement Republican disdain for President Obama can be seen when people are asked how he will go down in history. Few Democrats (7%) think he will be remembered poorly, but they are more likely to say that he will be remembered simply as a 'good' president (39%) rather than a 'great' president (29%). Half of Republicans, however, think that he will be remembered as a truly 'terrible' president, with only 26% saying history will see him as a merely 'bad' president. 

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