Who was the most hated president?

I’ve noticed that people who dislike Clinton tend to really, REALLY hate him. I observed this to be true for Reagan and Nixon too. But is there any of the 41 men who held that position that could be named as the most hated?

I’m going to say Andrew Johnson, a Democrat and a Southerner who held office only because Lincoln was assassinated. Until Clinton, he was the only president ever impeached. His trial in the Senate was much closer than Clinton’s; he survived in office by only one vote.


I will never forgive that bastard, dead or alive, for shattering my childhood faith in my country.

Also, all of Southeast Asia (not just Vietnam) hates his memory for the millions who died in the secret bombings.
Late, at night, when I can’t sleep; I wonder: did he fake his own death? Is he alive, living off billions of $ he secretly stole while in office, laughing at us all?

Guess I’ll just have to go to California, & dig up the bastard; just to be sure.


I told a friend once, “I hope someone remembered to drive a stake through the bastard’s black heart before they nailed the lid down.”

I would have to say Andrew Johnson. I actually studied him for a while. Mainly because He and I share a birth date. (dec 29th) He was very disliked in is time.

A lot of presidents have been seriously hated by someone. It all depends on how you define “hate.” Southerners hated Lincoln enough to send him death threats every day. I think there’s a difference between being POLITICALLY hated and being POPULARY hated, if that isn’t an oxymoron. What I’m trying to say is that some presidents were hated by other other politicians (Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan) and some were eventually hated by the people (Nixon, Lincoln) It’s important to make a distinction about WHEN they were hated-in their own time, or now? Nixon was a lot more disliked in his own time than he is now, although he’ll never escape Watergate. History tends to be nicer to all Presidents as time goes by. Nixon will always be the enduring exception.
Anyway, my vote for most hated in his own lifetime goes to Lincoln. Many politicians hated him, and a large segment of the population of the North hated him too. If you examine why all other assassinated Presidents were killed, only Kennedy could be said to have been a politically motivated killing, and no one can say he was actually hated. Lincolns policies were so unpopular at the time it led to his assassination. Now THAT’S being hated!

I was in Viet-Nam when LBJ was President. The shooting got real serious on Johnson’s watch. He lied about American destroyers being attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin to have an excuse to flex his muscle. He and Robert Strange McNamera should have been about the business of running the country instead of playing ‘General’ with maps in the war room.

And don’t get me started on Jane Fonda.

Nixon got voted into office on his promise to get us out of Viet-Nam. He did that. He didn’t say anything about not killing thousands of innocent civilians in the process. The fact that he was a damn liar and a generally despicable character is not unexpected. After all, he WAS a lawyer.

If we keep electing lawyers to the Presidency, they are going to keep lying and Doing what they were trained to do. Clinton is a lawyer. So is Hillary.

Now our choices are between Al Gore and G.W. Bush. Is that REALLY the best this country has to offer? I wanted to vote for Colin Powell last time.

To start with, probably any evidence for who was most hated would have to derive from polling data - or at least that is probably the most likely kind of information to be relevant. Since there is no substantial or trustworthy polling data from before the FDR administration, that writes off a lot of presidents, who just are awfully dang hard to evaluate.

Assuming the question is about who was most hated while IN office, I would say you really have the following main candidates. (The order here is strictly chronological)

HST: Recorded the lowest approval ever measured in the Gallup Presidential opinion poll (23%). Noticeable disrespect from many contemporaries (he was dismissed as a “haberdasher”, since that was his occupation before entering politics, (the label is somewhat silly - he sold clothes for three years before his shop went out of business, he was in politics for 20 years before becoming President. The use of the label probably indicates some substantial groups perceived Truman as not the sharpest mind in DC)

RMN: Second lowest approval rating (24% - the difference between this and Truman’s score could easily be a result of sampling error.) Disliked for Watergate, the “Imperial Presidency”, and many decisions re: Viet Nam war (at least by some).

JEC: One of only 4 presidents to drop below 30% in approval polls. Widely viewed as incompetant. Took the heat for bad economic conditions, energy crisis, Iranian hostage crisis (and the botched rescue attempt), and more.

GHWB: Only remaining president to drop below 30% in approval polls. Endured the most dramatic variation in approval ratings (his high of 89% is the highest recorded - his low of 29% is near the bottom). Suffered mainly from bad economic performance. Noticeable disrespect for his language skills and his Vice President.

WJC: Only contemporary president to be impeached. Approval ratings have stayed much higher than those above (his low was 37%), and actually has been scoring well into the 60’s for the last several months.

(Reagan’s ratings tended to be noticeably higher, and almost anyone who dislikes Reagan probably hates Nixon more, so I am going to leave him out for now.)

I would tend to write off the low poll results for Truman – there are some methodological issues with polling during that period that probably made Democrats look a bit worse in the polls than they were perceived by the public at large (this is part of the reason for the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline). In addition, while Bush and Carter scored pretty low, and each was heartily disrespected by large segments of the public, neither really inspired hatred.

That brings us back to two of the folks you mentioned. From these poll results, I would lean toward the presumption that Nixon was disliked by more people. On the other hand, while there isn’t polling evidence that I know of for this, I will grant that there is an intensity of feeling about Clinton that is pretty striking - and depending on exactly how you want to define “Most Hated”, Clinton could well hold that spot. Thus, we really have ended up cycling around to the social science professor’s favorite dictum - “define your terms.”

Note that the analysis probably changes quite a bit if we start looking at people’s reactions to presidents after they leave office. Many people are giving a lot more credit to Truman and Carter now than when they were in office (Bush probably will see some rebound as well, but I would expect that to happen after he is no longer seen as politically “relevant”, and that may be a while yet since his sons are so visible.) There are even some folks who are working to rehabilitate Nixon’s image.

[aside to self] Do not start the rant … hold it in … you are on the General Questions board, not the Pit. [/aside to self]

I would still guess that if you asked people today which president they liked the least (or hated the most), Nixon and Clinton would be at the top of the list. Gallup did ask people to identify the worst President, and Nixon got 24%, Clinton 20%. (Next on the list was Jimmy Carter, substantially behind the “leaders” at 10%).

Gallup poll numbers came either from Gallup’s website at (you guessed it) http://www.gallup.com or a website on presidential popularity at http://www.nmc.nwu.edu/vp/old/presidents/P01.html and following pages.


Indeed, this one may well end up there. But for now, it’s really more a Great Debates thing. So that’s where I’m sending it.

Excellent post, dorkbro! You’ve left me largely speechless, I’ll just add that for contemporary presidents, Nixon surely holds the long term most-hated spot (LBJ right before him was hugely unpopular, due to the war, but that popular outrage seemed to transfer to Nixon, and his Watergate induced resignation has seemingly sealed his place in history), but Clinton is going to give him a run for the money.

Thanks, but is leaving you speechless a good thing? (Or just an indication that I am a bit too long-winded.)

Not hated, but he should get one of the supporting Oscars.

Bush Jr. by a length or two…

I am with many of the others on their opinion of Nixon. While I agree with tcburnett about LBJ, I think his championing civil rights did a lot to soften mine and other peoples’ opinion of him.

Nixon’s I am not a crook will always be the defining image I have of him. Of course I believe he was a crook.

[I will not send American boys to do a job Asian boys should be doing themselves]? I’m not sure of the exact wording of the quote, but he did escalate the war.

And that poor dog he lifted by the ears. :rolleyes:

Oh come on.

I thought one of the (justifiable) reasons people hate Clinton was his reliance on polls. So we can’t know anything for certain before polling was introduced? To use a word I’m pretty sure use to be popular: Poppycock!

Lincoln didn’t suffer a decline in approval. Lincoln was hated. I think we can establish that without polls. Truman was dismissed. Carter was riticuled. Reagan was held in contempt. Nixon was hated but not my as many people as Lincoln. Being the most beloved does not mean you can’t be the most hated.

Andrew Johnson was disliked by politicians, both from the North (because he was considered too soft on the defeated South during Reconstruction) and from the South (because he was a Southerner who stayed loyal to the Union.)

He was also personally not very well liked because he just didn’t seem to fit the image of what a president would be. He didn’t learn to read until late in life. He is the only president who truly can be considered to have grown up in poverty. He sewed his own clothes as he was a tailor for most of his life. He just seemed a bit too rough around the edges for most people to accept and he made his predecessor look like a model of sophistication.

When he gave his brief inaugural address as Vice-President in 1865, he had been suffering from a cold and a bad case of nerves, so he attempted to remedy both problems by drinking a lot of alcohol. He then proceeded to give an almost entirely incoherent speech before the Senate.

There just weren’t many people in Andy Johnson’s corner while he was president. He got to appoint no justices to the Supreme Court during his almost complete four year term as president and had more vetoes overridden than any other president. He attempted to rally support to his candidates during the off-year elections in a first of its kind whistle-stop campaign, called “The Swing 'Round the Circle.” The Republican press ripped him to pieces for that.

Nevertheless, despite barely surviving the impeachment process, he got appointed to a fill a Senate seat just before he died and he did receive an ovation from the Senate after he was sworn in.

After all this is said, I personally hate Nixon more than any other president, but he had a lot more support than Andrew Johnson ever had.

Pretty much any president who DID anything wound up being hated by a substantial portion of the public. Franklin Roosevelt was called “that man in the White House” by Republicans who wouldn’t even say his name. Kennedy was despised by certain religious groups who thought, as a Catholic, he was “taking his orders from Rome.” And if we can’t get steamed up enough about the president, there’s always his wife – just ask Betty Ford, Roslyn Carter, and Hillary Clinton (too independent); Nancy Reagan (too controlling); or even Pat Nixon (“Plastic Patty”)

Nobody’s mentioned Herbert Hoover yet, so I will. The man was blamed for the Great Depression, after all. All of the shantytowns that sprang up after the economy collapsed were called “Hoovervilles.”

In addition, it was under Hoover that the Army turned its guns on fellow Americans. In 1932, the so-called “Bonus Army” of World War I veterans descended on D.C. to demand pay from Congress. MacArthur, ostensibly acting under Hoover’s authority, turned the Army loose on the protesters, their wives and children, and drove them away. Hoover was thereafter despised by veterans of the Great War.

Hoover’s hatred quotient had to be pretty high, though there were no “approval ratings” around then to measure it.

I also nominate Ulysses S. Grant, for the sheer intensity of the hatred the southern half of the nation felt toward him. Even among northerners, he was commonly reviled as a drunk and an incompetent, whose cabinet is still regarded as one of the most corrupt ever inflicted on the nation.

Oh, and I’ll chime in and say that in my lifetime Nixon wins going away. Nobody’s even mentioned Kent State, which rightly or wrongly, was also laid at Nixon’s feet. The man was absolutely despised after Watergate. Reagan, Bush, LBJ and Clinton can’t hold a candle to him.