Presidential Trivia – Old Questions, New Answers


For those of us who enjoy presidential trivia questions, there are some standard questions. Many of these old questions have new answers due to changes and events in recent years. This election and the previous administration have changed a number of them. In the past quarter-century, a number of others have changed. What follows is a primer so that you can be prepared in case you get some of these in a rousing game of trivia.

The most obvious classic question with a new answer is the one about father and son presidents. It used to be asked who was the only son of a president to become president, or who was the only president whose son also became president. Now, as we have all heard from various “talking heads” on TV, there are two sets, and both with the same first names to complicate matters. Of course there is George Bush, Sr. (or George H. W. Bush) and George W. Bush. The first was John Adams and John Quincy Adams. It has been said that George Sr. jokingly has started referring to his son as Quincy.

In the last year or two, the most famous presidential trivia question got a new answer. A favorite was always to name the only president to be impeached, or how many presidents have been impeached. (The answer was Andrew Johnson. Nixon was never impeached.) Of course, there are now two impeached presidents, thanks to William Jefferson Clinton and Monica Lewinski.

Another standard question, but for more advanced players, concerned re-elected Democrats. One version of the question asked either how many Democrats have been re-elected or asked you to name the four who had (for the record, Jackson, Cleveland, Wilson and FD Roosevelt). A more common version would be how many Democratic presidents, or name them, had been re-elected in this century (which would now be the last century, so lets say “during the 20th century”). Clinton changed the answer to all forms of this question in 1996, when he was re-elected. (Presidents serving part of someone else’s term such as Truman or LB Johnson don’t count since they were not elected to their first term; their second term is not technically a re-election. This confusion is sometimes avoided for the sake of trivia newbies by asking which Democratic presidents served two full terms.)

Another question involves the popular vote, about which we have all learned so much in recent months. The question involved which presidents, or again how many, were elected to two terms without ever winning a majority of the popular vote. (The answer until now was Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.) Again, William Jefferson Clinton changed that answer when he was twice elected without winning a majority of the popular vote in either election.

George Bush, Sr. (or George H.W. Bush) changed another classic trivia question. A favorite stumper was to name the last incumbent (current) Vice President to be elected President. It had not happened since Vice President Martin Van Buren was elected President in the election of 1836. A number have tried it since including Nixon in 1960, Humphrey in 1968 against Nixon, and of course Al Gore in 2000. But George H.W. Bush did it in 1988.

Ronald Reagan is well known among trivia enthusiasts for a couple of standard questions. Prior to Reagan, only one President had carried 49 states, and that was Richard Nixon who lost only Massachusetts in 1972. Reagan equaled the feat when he carried every state but Minnesota, the home of his opponent Walter Mondale, in 1984. Reagan also changed the answer to the oldest man ever elected to the office. It had been William Henry Harrison at the age of 68. William Henry Harrison is still known as the man who served the shortest term, dying 30 days into his administration. These last two questions are considered related. Ronald Reagan was 69, and turned 70 seventeen days after being sworn in. He was just short of his 78th birthday when he left office.

Of course there are some questions that will be asked more often in the future. One which will be asked, in fact I have already seen it posted, involves which/how many presidents have been elected from Texas. The two Bush boys are obvious, and Lyndon Johnson is the third. (For those who want to add a twist, that makes Johnson the only Democrat elected from Texas.)

I am sure there are others I have not covered here, but I tried to hit the main ones. If you have a good one I missed, please post it in the discussion area for this article. In the meantime, try some of these questions on your friends the next time you are play trivia or anytime the subject turns to politics. Have fun, y’all.