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The Historical Memory of American Presidents in the Mass Public

Department of Political Science, Fordham University, Bronx, NY 10458, USA
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(3), 36;
Received: 26 December 2017 / Revised: 23 February 2018 / Accepted: 25 February 2018 / Published: 2 March 2018
PDF [214 KB, uploaded 2 March 2018]


This paper investigates public evaluations of past presidents. Since voters generally lack much historical knowledge, such evaluations are not useful indicators of the performance and effectiveness of presidents across history, unlike the greatness evaluations of experts, like historians and presidency scholars. Still, presidents may be concerned about how future generations of voters will think about them. These anticipations may then affect presidential behavior in office. This study uses a Rasmussen poll in 2007 that asked voters their assessment of all the past presidents, from George Washington through to George W. Bush. Results find that voters look upon past presidents more favorably as a larger number of voters have opinions about the president, presidents of the founding generation are looked upon more favorably, and the ratings of experts affect voters’ assessments of past presidents. The conclusion discusses the implications of the results and offers suggestions for future research. View Full-Text
Keywords: presidential rankings; mass public; presidential greatness presidential rankings; mass public; presidential greatness
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Cohen, J.E. The Historical Memory of American Presidents in the Mass Public. Soc. Sci. 2018, 7, 36.

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