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Ronald Reagan Beloved Among American Public; Polls Show Gipper's Popularity Endures

Image: Ronald Reagan Beloved Among American Public; Polls Show Gipper's Popularity Endures
Official portrait of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, March 1, 1981. (AFP/ Stringer/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 12:09 PM

When a Gallup poll in 2011 asked Americans who they believed was their nation's best president, the answer came through loud and clear: Ronald Reagan.

Historians generally don't rate the 40th president that highly, but a Wall Street Journal survey in 2005 placed him at No. 6, and several other polls conducted since 1982 have placed him as high as No. 8.

Even today, GOP politicians are proud to bear the mantle of being a "Reagan Republican."

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Presidential biographer Chester Pach has written that "with remarkable effectiveness, Reagan set the political agenda for the 1980s.

"The issues that he considered most important — including tax reform, deregulation, reductions in social welfare programs, and increases in defense spending — dominated the politics of the decade."

Reagan had been a radio broadcaster, film and television actor, and president of the Screen Actors Guild when he delivered a rousing speech in support of 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.

Following the speech, Reagan — who had switched from Democrat to Republican in 1962 — was persuaded to seek the California governorship, which won in 1966 and again in 1970.

In 1976, Reagan challenged incumbent President Gerald Ford for the GOP nomination, but lost narrowly to Ford, who would go on to lose to Jimmy Carter in the general election.

Reagan did succeed in winning the Republican presidential nomination in 1980 and conducted his campaign during the ongoing Iran hostage crisis. "The Gipper" carried 44 states to unseat Carter, winning 489 electoral votes to Carter's 49.

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As president, Reagan implemented sweeping new economic initiatives. His supply-side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics," called for reducing tax rates to spur economic growth, reducing inflation, deregulating the economy, and cutting federal spending.

On March 30, 1981, Reagan was shot by John Hinckley Jr. in Washington. Said to be "close to death" when he arrived at a hospital, Reagan recovered and became the first serving president to survive being shot in as assassination attempt.

His first term also saw Reagan fire 11,345 striking air traffic controllers, and order an invasion of Grenada to reverse a communist coup.

Reagan won re-election in a landslide in 1984, defeating Democrat Walter Mondale with 525 electoral votes, the most of any candidate in U.S. history.

Speaking at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." Ten months later, the wall was torn down, and two years later, in the wake of Reagan's large-scale military buildup, the Soviet Union collapsed.

His second term was marked by the 1986 bombing of Libya, the end of the Cold War, and revelations about the Iran-Contra affair. Some say the scandal tarnished his presidency, but Reagan left office with an approval rating of 64 percent.

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"As president, he possessed an unshakeable certainty that his vision of the future would prevail, that tax cuts would produce prosperity even as the recession of the early 1980s deepened, that communism would ultimately be relegated to the 'ash-heap of history,' as he predicted in 1982, even as the Cold War grew more intense," Pach observed.

And presidential biographer Stephen E. Ambrose wrote: "Reagan will be remembered as the president who reversed the decades-old flow of power to Washington. By dismantling some federal programs, and reducing others, he forced the states and the cities to assume more responsibility for running their own shows."







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When a Gallup poll in 2011 asked Americans who they believed was their nation's best president, the answer came through loud and clear: Ronald Reagan.
president, ronald reagan, polls, gipper, popularity
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2014-09-13
Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 12:09 PM
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