Thomasville Times Enterprise

Opinion

July 8, 2014

Poll-arity

I have a simple question for you.

If you stumbled across a poll in a newspaper that concluded that Ronald Reagan was the worst American President in the last 70 years, would you believe it? Of course not. Your reaction to such a poll would be the same as mine. I would immediately dismiss it and laugh as I promptly deposited that poll in the nearest trash receptacle.

Reagan wasn’t a bad president. Far from it. That’s nonsensical. We touch and agree on this point, yes?

President Obama is not a bad president, either. Far from it. That is equally nonsensical.

Tongues are wagging because of the Quinnipiac University National Poll that was released last week which put forth the narrative that Obama ranks last of anyone (everyone?) who was duly elected as the leader of the free world for the past seven decades. Pardon me as I laugh while I’m writing this. I find hilarity in this poll. Poll-arity.

This poll was conducted from June 24-June 30. Media reports say that the margin of error for this poll was plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Polls are inherently subjective. Partisan. Emotional.

The dirty little secrets of a poll such as this are abundantly clear. I’m not an attorney, but even I can readily see that there are holes in it big enough to drive a transfer truck through.

First, the control group of respondents to this poll was made up of 1,446 registered voters. Where do these 1,446 people live? What are their professions? Do they live in the same town, the same state, the same region? Are they in the same socioeconomic levels or from different levels? Are they the occupants of a red state, a blue state or a purple state? How racially diverse are the 1,446 people polled? All of these factors influence the outcome. And of course, Quinnipiac isn’t about to share specifics.

Second, how exactly was the question phrased? Was it stated in plain language — or was there legalese present?

Third, let’s look at the results. Thirty-three percent of poll respondents declared President Obama as the worst. Twenty-eight percent of those polled identified President George W. Bush as the worse. Thirteen percent of those polled found President Richard Nixon as the worst. Six percent of those polled believe that President Jimmy Carter was the worst.

The true bias of this poll is revealed by even the inclusion of Presidents Obama and Bush. President Obama’s second term isn’t even at the halfway point. President Bush is still newly retired from his second term in office. If the poll was statistically pure, neither of these two men would have been included in the first place.

Fourth, let’s consider the component of time itself. I was born in 1967, so what opinion could I actually have of the presidents who were in office before I was born? Between World War II and 1967, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson occupied the Oval Office. Anyone who was at least a teenager when Truman was president is well into his or her 80s now.

How would someone go about comparingObama to Eisenhower? Or Kennedy to Bush (the elder)? Or Johnson to Ford? What would be the criteria? What would be the measuring stick? How could you accurately compare the various decades, cultural touchstones and wars? It would be a maddening task better suited for supercomputers than for political pundits/human beings.

Good people, are you actually telling me that three times as many Americans consider Obama a worse president than the only president who was forced to resign from office in disgrace? That makes as much sense to me as barbeque sauce on vanilla ice cream.

Here’s what your own common sense should be telling you: American presidents are all flawed human beings doing the very best they can. Every one of them made mistakes. Every one of them left office with regrets: either things done — or things left undone. Being president has been scientifically proven to be one of the hardest jobs known to man. There’s a reason every American president’s hair has turned as white as a sheet before our very eyes.

FYI: I managed to get my hands on a copy of Quinnipiac’s president poll and it is as convoluted as I originally thought. However, I believe that the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute is as independent as it claims.

Bottom line: there is no worst U.S. president. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

Every president’s poll numbers skyrocket after leaving office. That’s factual and non-debatable. If your favorite president isn’t as popular as you think he should be, just give it a few years. It will change. Happens all the time.

 

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