Kennedy bumps Roosevelt from top of Presidential Greatness Scale

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    Stephanie Diamond Member Supporting Member

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    New Zogby International poll shows Reagan in third place; Ford, Johnson ‘most mediocre’; Nixon a ‘failure’


    President Kennedy, enjoying a surge of fresh popularity among Americans who have rated him the greatest President of the modern era, surged past Franklin D. Roosevelt for the first time since early 2002, a new Zogby International poll shows.

    Roosevelt usually tops the Zogby Presidential Greatness Scale, but Kennedy has rebounded nicely after hitting a low point in 1997, when the American news media was filled with stories of Presidential peccadilloes during the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair. Also aiding Kennedy’s numbers: Americans who have a personal memory of the Roosevelt presidency are dwindling.

    Ronald Reagan held third place, rounding out a trio of former Commanders in Chief who continue to stand head-and-shoulders above other colleagues in the eyes of their countrymen. Reagan, who died in June, 2004, retained the big gains he made in the survey following his death, enshrining him well above fourth-place Harry Truman, the only President to authorize the use of a nuclear bomb and, in doing so, presided over the end of World War II.

    Kennedy was rated as “great” or “near-great” by 73% of those surveyed by Zogby, compared to 71% who felt the same way about Roosevelt. Reagan was rated as “great” or “near great” by 63% of respondents.

    Respondents have lower opinions of the five Presidents still living, the survey shows. Clinton is rated the highest, at 45%, followed by George H.W. Bush (33%), Carter (32%), George W. Bush (31%), and Ford (17%).

    The current president carries a high negative rating, as 40% said his performance has been either below average or a failure. Clinton suffered much the same negative effect when he was in office, and those negative opinions of the Clinton years have only recently started to soften. As late as 2003, 39% said they considered him a below average or failed president.

    Nixon, the only person ever to have resigned from the presidency, maintains the worst negative rating of any modern president, with 47% saying he was below average (27%) or a failure (20%).


    Great or
    Near Great
    Average
    Below Average/
    Failure

    Kennedy
    73%
    20%
    3%

    Roosevelt
    71%
    15%
    2%

    Reagan
    63%
    24%
    12%

    Truman
    51%
    29%
    2%

    Eisenhower
    47%
    34%
    4%

    Clinton
    45%
    32%
    23%

    G.H.W. Bush
    33%
    45%
    20%

    Carter
    32%
    40%
    11%

    G.W. Bush
    31%
    28%
    40%

    Johnson
    20%
    47%
    24%

    Ford
    17%
    58%
    11%

    Nixon
    15%
    35%
    47%


    Two presidents who are widely considered by respondents to be kings of mediocrity include Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas and Gerald Ford of Michigan. While just 17% rated Ford’s presidency “great” or “near great”, 58% said he was an “average” president, and 11% thought he was less than average. Twenty percent said Johnson was “great” or “near great”, and 47% said he was average, while one in four said he was below average or a failure.

    The pair shared more than mediocre poll ratings. They both came to the executive branch after long and successful careers in the U.S. Congress, and they both ascended to the presidency not by election, but by vacancies created by assassination and scandal.

    Johnson was elevated to the presidency hours after the murder of President Kennedy, presided over the Vietnam War that lost so much public support that he opted not to run for re-election in 1968, but also championed civil rights legislation. Ford took over after Nixon resigned, but had difficulty overcoming resentment from those who disagreed with his decision to pardon Nixon of any and all crimes possibly committed against the nation.

    The Zogby International telephone survey included 1,031 interviews between Jan. 9 and Jan. 12, 2006, and carries a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
    http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1057
     

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