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(03/01/11) -

Kennedy and Reagan Lead List of Good Presidents for Americans

Clinton is third on the national list, but remains a polarizing figure a decade after his departure from the White House.

Five men who have served as United States presidents since World War II are still regarded as good heads of state by a majority of Americans, a new Vision Critical / Angus Reid poll has found.

The online survey of a representative national sample of 1,010 American adults asked respondents about 12 former and current presidents. John F. Kennedy garnered the biggest proportion of mentions as a “Good President” with 80 per cent, followed by Ronald Reagan with 72 per cent, Bill Clinton with 65 per cent, Dwight D. Eisenhower with 61 per cent, and Harry S. Truman with 57 per cent.

Jimmy Carter is sixth on the list of positive mentions with 47 per cent, followed by George H. W. Bush with 44 per cent, Barack Obama with 41 per cent, Gerald Ford with 37 per cent, Lyndon B. Johnson with 33 per cent, George W. Bush with 30 per cent, and Richard Nixon with 24 per cent.

A majority of respondents consider Bush 43 (55%) and Nixon (54%) as “Bad Presidents.”

Political Allegiance

Republicans are practically universal in their praise for Reagan, with 92 per cent of GOP supporters considering him a “Good President.” At least two-thirds of Republicans also are fond of Bush 41 (79%), Bush 43 (75%), Kennedy (74%) and Eisenhower (66%).

For Democrats, Kennedy is the most popular choice (88%), followed closely by Clinton (86%). Obama is third on the list for Democratic Party backers (69%), and a majority also praise Carter (63%), Truman (59%), Eisenhower (59%) and Reagan (57%).

Independents place Kennedy in first place (80%), followed by Reagan (78%), Clinton (64%), Eisenhower (63%) and Truman (58%).


The appeal of the top two presidents crosses party lines, with three-in-four Republicans remembering Kennedy as a “Good President” and three-in-five Democrats expressing fondness for Reagan. The numbers for Truman and Eisenhower show little variation among Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Clinton is third on the national list, but remains a contentious choice—only 44 per cent of Republicans believe he was a “Good President.” A similar scenario ensues for Bush 43. While three-in-four Republicans brand him as a “Good President”, only 22 per cent of Independents and 15 per cent of Democrats concur.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From February 18 to February 19, 2011, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 1,010 American adults who are Springboard America panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of the United States. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.