Sunday, February 20, 2005

 

More Polling Sadness.

From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON - When Americans rate their greatest president, they do not agree on who tops the list, but seem to rank a half-dozen chief executives ahead of the nation's first. George Washington tied for sixth place in one recent poll and rated seventh in another.

...

But in a poll commissioned by Washington College for President's Day, Americans rated Abraham Lincoln as the greatest president. A CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll put Ronald Reagan on top.

Many young adults have only sketchy information about Washington, according to the college's poll.

Asked who was the greatest president, 20 percent of those polled chose Lincoln. Reagan was picked by 15 percent, Franklin D. Roosevelt by 12 percent, John F. Kennedy by 11 percent, Bill Clinton by 10 percent and George W. Bush by 8 percent. Washington was picked by 6 percent.

In the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, Reagan had 20 percent, followed by Clinton and Lincoln in the mid-teens and then Roosevelt and Kennedy at 12 percent.
What the hell is it with people today?

I guess the same type of polling could hold true in any era. People tend to focus on recent Presidents to the exclusion of others.

Hey, I'm a fan or George W. Bush, and I think history will continue to be increasingly kind to Ronald Reagan, but these kind of results are ridiculous.

It's Washington and Lincoln first-- or Lincoln and Washington. It's tough to determine which had a harder job: the President establishing a nation, or the President trying to hold it together. That said, no other American leader even comes close to those two.

The greatest challenge to appreciating Washington's greatness has always been his inaccessibility. Given how often the Founders' legacy is dominated by legend and hagiography, understanding the complexity of Washington isn't easy.

If you read only one book on George Washington, I heavily recommend Richard Brookhiser's Founding Father. You'll gain a wonderful new perspective on our first President.

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