WASHINGTON – Most Americans say Ronald Reagan, who died this month, will be remembered as a better president than Bill Clinton, according to an Associated Press poll.
Seven in 10 say history will judge Reagan superior, based on the survey conducted one week after the Republican icon’s state funeral and nonstop media coverage focused not only on the ceremonies marking his death at age 93 but a lifetime of achievements from Hollywood to the White House.
Out of office just 31/2 years, Clinton recently returned to the limelight with a prime-time interview to publicize his memoir, “My Life,” which goes on sale today.
About 83 percent of those questioned said they have a favorable view of Reagan as a person, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs. The former president completed his two terms in office in January 1989.
A majority of 53 percent said they have an unfavorable view of Clinton while 41 percent rated him favorably. In January, people were about evenly divided in their view of Clinton as a person.
Although stocks soared and the deficit fell during Clinton’s tenure, many Americans associate the Democrat with the marital infidelity that nearly toppled his presidency, impeachment by the House and the Senate vote that saved him. Women were slightly more likely than men to have an unfavorable view.
Reagan often gets credit for the end of the Cold War, even though former President George H.W. Bush was in office when the Soviet Union collapsed. The military buildup during Reagan’s eight years and pressure on the Soviets are cited as contributing factors in the demise of the superpower.
Time also had a bearing on opinions. Reagan had been out of office for 16 years, long enough for some to forget the low points of his presidency, including the Iran-contra scandal and budget deficits.