The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Obama presidency, from ‘socialist’ to ‘dictator’

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The good news for President Obama: His detractors no longer think he's a socialist.

The bad news: He's now a dictator.

Since the beginning of Obama's presidency, Pew has been asking Americans to describe the president in one word. In April of 2009, "socialist" was the third most-common word, earning 20 mentions. And "liberal" was close behind, in fourth place, with 15.

By June 2013, "liberal" had fallen off the leaderboard, and "socialist" dropped to seventh place, at 15.

Today, neither "socialist" nor "liberal" appears among the top terms used to describe Obama. In its place are "incompetent" (33 mentions, 2nd place), dictator (12, tied for 4th place), and "idiot/stupid" (12, tied for 4th place).

And it’s worth nothing that, for as long as Pew has asked this question, responses have generally been more positive than negative. The last five polls have seen “good” emerge as the top word, while “intelligent” was No. 1 in 2009 and 2010. “Intelligent” is now No. 3.

Here are the rundowns of the top words used to describe Obama in 2009, 2013 and today.

Using word clouds and open-ended questions to evaluate Obama's presidency, of course, has severe limitations. But it's an interesting way to get at how his biggest critics see him. While the earliest criticisms of Obama were ideological ("socialist," "liberal") and judgments of his qualifications ("inexperienced"), those have largely given way to views of Obama as a heavy-handed "dictator" who can't get things done without resorting to executive fiat ("incompetent," "idiot/stupid," "liar," "failure").

(Side note: Vulgarities didn't make their way into the responses Pew got until 2012, when the s-word and the a-word debuted. In the most recent poll, "a--hole" or a "jacka--" are mentioned by five people. So, yay political discourse.)

And here's the full trend line: