skip to main content
Gallup Vault
Gallup Vault: A Presidential Health Scare
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: A Presidential Health Scare

In June 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from emergency intestinal surgery less than a year after experiencing a heart attack, and questions abounded about his ability to serve -- or even run -- for a second term. Gallup found 43% of Americans believing that, if re-elected that year, Eisenhower would be able to carry out "all the important duties of the presidency," while nearly as many (38%) doubted he would be fit to serve and 18% were unsure.

If (President) Eisenhower is re-elected, do you think his health will permit him to carry out all the important duties of the presidency for the next four years?
U.S. adults
Yes 43
No 38
No opinion 18
Gallup, June 15-20, 1956

Even after the Republican president received a clean bill of health from his doctors, the story didn't go away, likely because of strong partisan undertones. As George Gallup reported with some bemusement in late July, "Curiously, a person's political views have a strong effect on his theories as to the physical fitness of the president to assume the burdens of renomination. Three times as many Democrats think the president may have another heart attack as do Republicans [42% vs. 14%]."

Also, in mid-August, Gallup found sharp political differences in perceptions of whether Eisenhower's health would permit him to serve another four years. Most of his supporters said his health would permit him to serve, and most of his opponent's supporters said it wouldn't. George Gallup took the opportunity to note that this political pattern was reminiscent of attitudes toward Franklin D. Roosevelt's health a decade earlier.

Do you think that [President Eisenhower's/President Roosevelt's] health will or will not permit him to carry on the responsibility of the presidency for another four years?
The president's supporters Opponent's supporters
% %
August 1956 (opponent: Adlai Stevenson)
Yes, health will permit Eisenhower to serve 70 23
No, will not 30 77
August 1944 (opponent: Thomas Dewey)
Yes, health will permit Roosevelt to serve 84 47
No, will not 16 53

At roughly the same time, most Americans did not think Eisenhower's health should be "made an issue in the election campaign." Sixty-five percent of Americans, including 85% of Republicans and 48% of Democrats, said it should not be an issue. Just 28% of Americans, including 10% of Republicans and 43% of Democrats, said it should be.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030