JFK Still Most Highly-Regarded Former President

Former President John F. Kennedy and his daughter, Caroline, aboard a yacht in Hyannis Port, Mass., in August 1963. Cecil Stoughton, White House/JFK Library

Former president John F. Kennedy, Jr. remains the most popular of recent past American presidents, according to a recent Gallup poll, while former President Richard Nixon continues to rank as the least popular.

According to the poll, Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, enjoys an 85 percent approval rating - up one point from 2006 figures. He bests by 11 points former President Ronald Reagan, who clocked in at second place with a 74 percent rating.

Nixon's approval rating is 29 percent, up one point from his 2006 rating.

The poll, which sampled 1,037 random American adults from Nov. 19-21, 2010, asked Americans the extent to which they approved or disapproved of how nine former presidents handled their jobs while in office -- based on what they know or remember. Gallup initiated the poll in 1990, and Kennedy has consistently come in first.

While the ratings for the most popular and unpopular presidents has remained largely unchanged, the favorability ratings of former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson have benefitted from the passage of time. Mr. Clinton, jumping eight points to 69 percent, now ranks number three on the list. Presidents Bush and Johnson, each of whom also gained eight points, sit at numbers four and seven, respectively.

Former president Jimmy Carter dropped from third to fifth place among those ranked, to 52 percent favorability - a nine-point drop.

President George W. Bush, who was still in office at the time of the most recent poll and was thus excluded from it, earned a 47 percent rating of approval, which puts him at number eight out of nine former president. With a 51 percent negative rating, he joins Nixon as the only other former president whose retrospective disapproval outweighs his approval rating. (Nixon's rating is much worse than Mr. Bush's: 65 percent remembered him negatively, while just 29 percent remembered him positively.)

A different Gallup poll shows that of the nine former presidents, Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, Ford, Carter, and Clinton enjoy more positive ratings in retrospect than they did (on average) while in office. Presidents Johnson and Nixon have lower approval ratings now than they did during their terms. Both Bush presidents had similar approval ratings both in and out of office.

Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.