How United States Presidents are viewed by history can change - sometimes dramatically - over time. Woodrow Wilson was barely re-elected in 1916, rejected by the Senate and voters in his bid for a League of Nations, and kept his party from winning back the White House for 12 years -- but he has landed in the Top Ten Greatest Presidents in every survey of historians ever taken. Harry Truman left office in 1953 with perhaps the lowest polls of any American President, only to emerge in pretty much everyone's Top Ten (or twelve) since. Bill Clinton was reviled and even impeached but is very popular with voters and historians today. Eight years of peace and prosperity, a budget surplus, and ownership of his opponents' issues can do wonders for a leader.

It is way too early to speculate about Barack Obama. But it is not too early to have some fun. So the latest Zogby Analytics Poll asked 898 voters nationwide how they thought Mr. Obama would be remembered by history. Here is what we got:

  • Tried to change things for the better, and was mostly successful - 25%
  • Tried to change things for the better, but was unsuccessful - 30%
  • Tried to steer the country in a new direction but went too far - 32%
  • Not sure - 14%

This is an overall split screen view, which perfectly reflects the split country we live in. Needless to say, Democrats and Republicans currently see Mr. Obama through Red vs. Blue shades. Half of Democrats (49%) say he will be remembered as largely successful and another 26% say he at least tried to do the right thing, though he failed. Only 10% say he went too far. A majority of Republicans (55%) agree that the President went too far and only 5% call him successful for trying to make things better. Independents are not so sanguine about the topic - 16% call him successful, 30% feel he has tried, 32% say he has failed, and 18% are not so sure. For liberals, this President is seen as a hero by 55% and another 25% think he has tried. Only 6% cede any failure. For conservatives, Mr. Obama has been El Diablo - though they probably don't say it in Spanish. (The conservative numbers: 9%, 26%, 53%, 12% not sure). Moderates, who have generally supported Mr. Obama over his opposition in his elections and in polls, give him 24% for succeeding, 34% for trying, and 27% for failing by going too far.

We again will need historical perspective. President Obama will no doubt receive high marks for his election victories and ushering in a new governing coalition (like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan), for raising expectations (like John F. Kennedy), for plugging the leaks of a hemorrhaging economy (like FDR), for signing an equal pay for equal work law in his first month in office, for promising and delivering health care reform, for transitioning the United States from its role as the only superpower to more deliberative use of its military power, and for using executive power to protect the environment and allow children of illegal immigrants to enjoy what American has to offer. He will score high for intellect and vision - and for making the decision to execute Osama bin Laden. If the last two years continue as the first six years of his tenure, he will get high marks for allowing no terrorist attacks on American soil.

On the flip side, he will be chastised for enabling and actually growing a national security state, for not being aggressive enough in punishing Wall Street criminal activities, for being too scholarly and visionary (like Wilson), and for losing control of his own administration's narrative - thus allowing his opponents to control the message. He will also be assessed negatively for poor political skills and for his lack of administrative experience. Finally, he will be charged for being indecisive and issuing warnings to nations like Syria and Russia without backing them up with timely and sufficiently action. Again, like Wilson, he kept us out of war and got us into war.

But, perhaps above all, he will be seen as cautious. For supporters, this will mean that he judiciously used American power and eschewed it when U.S. might could actually make situations worse (the Middle East and Russia). For detractors, he didn't only lead from behind, he didn't lead.

President Barack Obama still has two years. These will be critical to his legacy. And so will be perspective. Remember: Lincoln and Truman were skewered when in office; Warren G. Harding was loved.