Ten Miles Square


May 03, 2012 8:15 AM Is “Even Jimmy Carter” Even a Good Insult?

By John Sides

Apropos of Romney’s “even Jimmy Carter” remark, from a January 2011 CNN poll:

From what you have heard, read or  remember about some of our past presidents, please tell me if you  approve or disapprove of the way each of the following handled their  job as president: Jimmy Carter?”

Carter’s approval rating wasn’t all that low: 53% of respondents approved, 39% disapproved, and 7% didn’t know.

Here is the breakdown by party: Dems – 74%, independents – 56% (vs. 35% disapprove), and Republicans – 28%.

This doesn’t strike me, on its face, as evidence that Carter is some powerfully resonant negative symbol.  He’s viewed favorably even by the majority of independents.  If this “message”—I use quotes because Romney’s remark sounded off-the-cuff and not like some pre-planned talking point—is going to resonate with anyone, it will mostly be Republicans, 90% of whom already plan to vote for Romney anyway.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

John Sides is an associate professor of political science at George Washington University.


  • MuddyLee on May 02, 2012 3:58 PM:

    Carter and his administration: legalized home brewing, promoted energy conservation and solar energy, had real military service (unlike W or Romney), had a good record at the Naval Academy (unlike McCain), could speak English (unlike W), promoted human rights, had good musical guests at the White House (Doc Watson, Muddy Waters, Willie Nelson, Dizzy Gillespie for example), a decent man who had some bad luck with the economy and the Iran hostage situation (which magically resolved itself after former CIA director Bush1 and Reagan were inaugurated - more than a little suspicious). He was a little square - but not as square as Romney. F**k the Re CAPTCHA thing - respect your readers, PA, and get something else.

  • carterfan on May 02, 2012 10:19 PM:

    more to add!

    peace treaty between egypt and israel, normalization of US-china relationship, increasing minority workers in public services, 2002 nobel peace prize, first national energy policy which succeeded to reduce oil consumption by whipping 75%! and establishment of departments of energy and education.

    he fought for civil right movements as a georgia governor when it was politically very uncommon yet in the south.

    iran hostage situation had been occurred and solved under his watch even though reagan took a credit(the regime specifically contact carter, not reagan, during his last days in office but actually release finally happen under reagan).

    he had bad luck with economy just like GH bush (another good man) but Carter is pretty amazing now that we look back our history since he left his office in 1980.

    i want Carter to outlive Castro, by the way.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on May 03, 2012 9:04 AM:

    Example 1000 of how the Republican echo chamber has led to messages that are optimized for their own 27%. Every Rush Limbaugh listener knows that Carter was the worst president to come after FDR and before Obama. It's just common knowledge!

    I guess it's of a piece with a party that's becoming addicted to ideological purity to the exclusion of convincing anyone other than true believers.