Carter edges both Bushes by double-digits. The poll was taken last month, well before Carter’s race remark the other day. But the numbers are noteworthy, because even before this week, Carter has generally been assumed by some Dems to be terrifyingly controversial, largely because of his writings on the Middle East.
With the focus on the Mideast heating up again, Carter will likely be making more news, and the Obama administration will likely be distancing itself from him again, as it did yesterday. Worth recalling that the public doesn’t take all that dim a view of the stuff he’s done since leaving the White House.
Yes and no. The problem is that this poll result is perfectly consistent with 55 percent of the public thinking that Carter is history’s greatest monster. He’s clearly done more—and more controversial—stuff than any other ex-president. So it’s easy to imagine him being both the most liked and the most disliked. What’s more, there’s the whole question of preference intensity. Most Americans, according to surveys I’ve seen, have perfectly reasonable views about the Middle East. But the people who care most about the Israeli-Arab conflict tend to be the people with the least-reasonable views—Christian Zionists and the Jewish right.