Poll: Ronald Reagan Still Held in High Esteem

Roosevelt and JFK also gain high marks.


Americans rate three of their most optimistic leaders in recent years—Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy—as the best presidents since World War II.

A new survey by the Harris Poll, timed to coincide with Presidents' Day, finds that 25 percent of Americans rate Reagan as the best chief executive in nearly seven decades, followed by Roosevelt with 19 percent, and Kennedy with 15. The three shared a sunny outlook about the nation's future and were known for their charisma.

[Sorry Mitt Romney, Good Businessmen Rarely Make Good Presidents.]

Bill Clinton came in fourth with 12 percent. All the other presidents since World World II lagged far behind in the ratings.

At the other end of the ledger, George W. Bush was rated the worst president since World War II by 27 percent, placing him at the bottom of the list.

Barack Obama was rated the worst by 22 percent. Richard Nixon was third from the bottom at 10 percent.

Overall, Abraham Lincoln was rated as the best president in U.S. history by 21 percent, followed by Reagan at 15, George Washington at 13, Kennedy at 10, and Roosevelt at 9.

[The 10 Worst Presidents.]

A Gallup survey, which covered a more recent time period—the past four decades—also found that Reagan's ratings were high. A summary from Gallup said, "Americans generally regard Reagan and Clinton as the best presidents in recent memory, back through the Nixon administration. Their positive ratings could be tied to the fact that both were in office during strong economic times. Of the remaining presidents, only George H.W. Bush is rated much more positively than negatively, perhaps becaue of his strong record on foreign policy."

Gallup added: "Americans still rate George W. Bush among the worst presidents, though their views have become more positive in the three years since he left office. Views of Bush have improved about equally among Democrats, Republicans, and independents, suggesting that the passage of time may be helping Americans see him in a slightly less negative light."

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