Poll: Millennials Really Love Obama
I must admit that I was really shocked by a recent Pew Research Center poll that found that 33 percent of Americans believe that Barack Obama was the best president of their lifetime. Were these people even paying attention from 2009 to 2016? While a third of Americans thinking he was the best is bad enough, when you combine people’s first and second choices, the poll gets even more interesting:
When asked which president has done the best job in their lifetimes, more Americans name Barack Obama than any other president. More than four-in-ten (44%) say Obama is the best or second best president of their lifetimes, compared with about a third who mention Bill Clinton (33%) or Ronald Reagan (32%). [emphasis mine]
Obama’s strongest support came from millennials. “Sixty-two percent of people in that generation — described as those aged from 22 to 37 — named our nation's first black president as one of the best they've seen.”
Sixty-two percent? How is that possible? Well, consider the fact that the oldest millennials were first old enough to vote in a presidential election in 2000, and the youngest in 2016. So, most millennials are too young to remember (at least as adults) any presidents besides George W. Bush, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump. Seeing as how young people tend to be liberal, Obama’s inflated numbers in that generation are, while not understandable, at least explainable. The question is, will millennials in time come to their senses? Probably.
I still wouldn’t put too much stock in this poll because public perceptions of presidents will always be stronger, negative or positive, for more recent presidents. In the same way, the left always considers any current Republican president or presidential nominee to be the worst in history—a phenomenon I covered in a column a couple months ago.
Let me prove this point. This comes from the very same poll:
Not yet halfway through his term, 19% say Donald Trump has done the best or second best job of any president of their lifetimes. That is comparable with the share who viewed Obama as one of the best presidents in 2011 (20%). [emphasis mine]
What these numbers prove is that it’s really impossible to assess recent presidents objectively… especially given how divided we are politically. Considering that Trump's numbers are comparable to Obama's early in his presidency, it's hardly a stretch to suggest that Trump will top the "best president of my lifetime poll" after he leaves office. So, I would recommend that Obama supporters not put too much faith in these polls.
Simply put, the passage of time makes it easier to assess a president on his record with less partisan influence. For example, public perception of George W. Bush has improved a lot since he left office. Bill Clinton’s popularity, however, has taken a beating in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Had Hillary Clinton won in 2016 you can bet many on the left would have immediately crowned her the best president in history. Because “glass ceilings” and stuff.