Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reagan's reputation

As many people have noticed, the Republican candidates for president have praised Ronald Reagan and said very little about other Republican presidents, even popular ones (it's a long time since I heard anyone claim to be an "Eisenhower Republican").  Even Democrats, notably Barack Obama, have said some positive things about him in recent years.  When did this start?  A number of surveys, mostly Gallup, have asked "How do you think Ronald Reagan will go down in history--as an outstanding president, above average, average, below average, or poor?"  (have did not mention "average" as an option but allowed people to volunteer it, and one asked for a rating of his "leadership" qualities, but there was no evidence that these differences affected the responses).  Here is a figure showing his average score, using +2.....-2 for the different responses.  
 His low point was July 1987, when he was under criticism for a variety of reasons, especially the Iran-Contra affair (on July 13, 1987 the New York Times ran a story entitled "GOP Hopefuls Backing Away from Reagan,' which makes interesting reading today).  His reputation had bounced back by the time he left office, and unfortunately there was a four-year gap before it was asked again.  At that time, he was almost back to his 1987 low, but since then it's been steady improvement:  each of the last four times it's been asked, he's set a new high.  I wonder if that's a common pattern, or something unique to Reagan. 

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