A plurality of Americans named Barack Obama the best president of their lifetimes.
In a survey by the Pew Research Center, 44% named Obama the best or second-best president of their lifetimes, followed by 33% who named Bill Clinton and 32% who named Ronald Reagan.
Respondents mentioned Donald Trump only 19% of the time, putting him in fourth place. Notably, that was roughly equivalent to Obama’s figure at a similar point in his presidency — in a similar survey in 2011, Obama was listed as the first or second choice by 20% of Americans.
In the survey, conducted from June 5 to 12, 2,002 adults were asked in an open-ended question, “Which president has done the best job during your lifetime?” They were asked to name both their first and second choices.
Both presidents Bush fell lower on the list. George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were named the best or second-best by 14% and 10% of Americans, respectively.
Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt are named by less than 5% of respondents.
In general, the age of respondents was highly correlated with their responses. A majority of millenials mentioned Obama at 62% — a higher number than any other generation. Reagan, on the other hand, was the most common answer among the Baby Boomer and Silent generations.
The comparatively higher popularity of recent presidents is likely due to changing demographics, since the question asked respondents for presidents during their lifetimes. For example, only about a tenth of adults named John F. Kennedy — but that number is around a quarter for those who were alive to see his presidency.
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