How Americans describe the presidents they like

Linley SandersData Journalist
February 10, 2020, 8:30 PM UTC

Americans view President Donald Trump as “strong” and President Barack Obama as “presidential.”

Ahead of President’s Day, YouGov analyzed the positive phrases most commonly associated with the five living presidents, as provided by people who like them. A look at YouGov Ratings data provides a lens into each president’s most memorable characteristics. The data indicates that while there are some overlapping traits—especially among shared political parties—the five living former presidents have built distinct identities.

Four of the five living presidents are described as “intelligent” by those who like them, making it the most commonly-shared adjective for commanders-in-chief. All of the living Democratic presidents—Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter—are viewed as people who “stand up for ordinary people.” Both of the living Republican presidents—Trump and George W. Bush—are described as “patriotic.”

Obama and Clinton are described as “good speakers” by their fans, while Bush and Carter are seen as particularly likable. Obama and his predecessor, Bush, are both described as “a leader.” 

Trump has the highest number of unique words associated with him: competent, passionate, and strong. America’s oldest-lived president, Carter, has two unique words associated with him: humble and honorable. Each of the remaining presidents have one word that is their own: Clinton is described as charismatic, Bush is listed as respectful, and Obama is seen as presidential.  

Related: Who Americans believe the best president is

Methodology: YouGov Ratings asks US Adults “Please tell us what you think about the following”, and offers a 5-point scale as well as a “not heard of” option. The 5-point scale ranges from strongly negative, slightly negative, neutral, slightly positive, to strongly positive. The words displayed as each candidates' top five are those submitted by those who have a positive opinion of that person. Pre-defined adjectives are offered, but panelists are also able to write-in their own descriptors. Negative word associations are not displayed.

Image: Getty