60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll Asks If Obama Should Be Added to Mt. Rushmore

Harry Smith, Maggie Rodriguez, Cali Carlin, Michael Hogan, CBS The first question in a poll conducted by CBS’s 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair magazine asked Americans to nominate a fifth face for Mt. Rushmore and included Barack Obama among the contenders. While President Kennedy took the lead with 29%, Obama came in fourth with 16%, just behind Franklin Roosevelt at 18% and Ronald Reagan at 20%.

On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-hosts Harry Smith and Maggie Rodriguez discussed the poll with CBSNews.com’s Cali Carlin and Vanity Fair’s Michael Hogan. Smith thought the Rushmore question was “terrific” and guessed that “it’s got to be between Kennedy and FDR.” Rodriguez made the same prediction: “if you know anything about history, you’d have to do FDR because he served four terms. But I think given our current population, most people probably said Kennedy.” Neither of them suggested Republican choices Reagan or Eisenhower would earn such a place of honor.

Carlin confirmed those guesses: “You’re right, it is JFK. People want to further that Camelot feeling and they would add him.” She then added: “But about 16% wanted our current president, Barack Obama, even though he hasn’t even served a full year in office. He got fourth place.” Rodriguez observed: “That’s unbelievable. Maybe just because of the historic significance of him being African American.” Carlin expressed skepticism: “Yeah, it could be a little premature though, maybe like that Nobel Prize.”

When the previous edition of the poll came out in September, it featured a question asking women who they would like to switch lives with for a week. First Lady Michelle Obama was listed among the choices. While discussing the poll on the September 28 Early Show, Rodriguez enthusiastically answered that question: “Hands down, Michelle Obama.”

On Monday, Rodriguez went on to ask Hogan about another poll result that found that only 26% of Americans could explain the ‘public option’ in current health care legislation. Hogan explained: “Only 26% of people were confident they could explain it. 66% said no, they can’t explain it. So a little bit of a problem there for something we’re all supposed to be debating, that there’s this lack of understanding.”

Rodriguez followed up: “...is there a nut shell definition that you like to give people of the public option?” Hogan offered one: “It’s a government-run health plan that is supposed to compete with the private insurers to establish affordable rates for health insurance.” Smith liked that rather optimistic definition: “...we have a ding-ding-ding that we sometimes use for right answers...I think you actually did deserve a ding-ding-ding.”

The final poll question discussed during the Early Show segment was one about which music Americans would not want to listen to a “painfully high volumes.” Carlin explained the inspiration for the question: “And this actually spawns from a serious question, though, because there’s reports that detainees at Guantanamo had to listen to music at painfully high volumes. And the musicians want to if their’s were – was used.” Smith added that those musicians “want to sue.”  

NewsBusters’ Noel Sheppard earlier reported that the poll also found that radio host Rush Limbaugh was considered to be the most influential conservative in America.

Here is a portion of the Early Show segment:

HARRY SMITH: The CBS News magazine 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair magazine are out with a brand new poll, taking the pulse of America on all sorts of interesting matters. And here with the results are Cali Carlin of CBSNews.com and Michael Hogan, executive editor for Vanity Fair online. Good morning.

CALI CARLIN: Good morning.

MICHAEL HOGAN: Morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Pulse of America; New 60 Minutes & Vanity Fair Survey]

SMITH: So we have a bunch of interesting questions that you polled to get answers to. Maggie is back on the couch with us now. I want to start with this very first one, which I think is terrific, which is who would be the next face to put on Mt. Rushmore?

CARLIN: We gave Americans seven options for this hypothetical fifth slot on the South Dakota sculpture, including our current President, Barack Obama, as well as FDR, JFK, Ronald Reagan, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Andrew Jackson, and Lyndon Johnson. So what do you guys think?

SMITH: So – go ahead, do you want to guess first?

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think if you know anything about history, you’d have to do FDR because he served four terms. But I think given our current population, most people probably said Kennedy.

SMITH: It’s – I’ve got to believe it’s got to be between Kennedy and FDR. Because I’m just trying to guess – out-guess the poll.

CARLIN: What Americans would think. You’re right, it is JFK. People want to further that Camelot feeling and they would add him. But surprise – and Ronald Reagan got second place, so he was the highest of the Republicans. But about 16% wanted our current president, Barack Obama, even though he hasn’t even served a full year in office. He got fourth place.

[ON-SCREEN GRAPHIC: Kennedy 29%; Reagan 20%; Roosevelt 18%; Obama 16%; Eisenhower 6%; Jackson 2%; Johnson 0%]

RODRIGUEZ: That’s unbelievable. Maybe just because of the historic significance of him being African American. Right? Maybe.

CARLIN: Yeah, it could be a little premature though, maybe like that Nobel Prize.    

[LAUGHTER]

RODRIGUEZ: Ooo, Cali, going for it. Alright, number two, let’s bring in Michael here, you asked people about the two words we now hear constantly, ‘public option.’ And you asked if people can actually explain what the public option is. Can they?

HOGAN: That’s right, yeah, it was a yes or no question. Yes, they can, but not that many. Only 26% of people were confident they could explain it. 66% said no, they can’t explain it. So a little bit of a problem there for something we’re all supposed to be debating, that there’s this lack of understanding.

RODRIGUEZ: So is there a – like if you’re at party and you want to impress your friends, is there a nut shell definition that you like to give people of the public option?

HOGAN: Yeah, I think so. It’s – I mean, in a nutshell, it’s pretty simple. It’s a government-run health plan that is supposed to compete with the private insurers to establish affordable rates for health insurance. Now, we’ll see if it passes or not and we’ll see if it has those qualities when it does pass.

RODRIGUEZ: And a lot of people say there’s a lot more to it, but, yes, that is a nut shell definition.
    
SMITH: We should have given – we have a ding-ding-ding that we sometimes use for right answers.

CALI: Does he deserves it?

SMITH: I think you actually did deserve a ding-ding-ding.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC