Reagan's Approval Rating Up, Clinton's Down, Poll Says

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - A new poll shows most Americans give Ronald Reagan a higher retrospective job approval rating than when he was in office. In contrast, Bill Clinton's retrospective rating slipped lower than his job approval rating while in office, according to a Gallup poll.

Ronald Reagan's average job approval rating while in office between 1981 and 1989 was 53 percent, but looking back, 73 percent of Americans say they approve of how he handled his term in office.

Clinton averaged a 55 percent job approval rating during both terms in office between 1993 and 2001, but those surveyed today give him a 51 percent approval rating.

According to Gallup, those who remember Clinton most favorably tend to be Democrats and nonwhites and younger Americans. Those least likely to approve of him are Republicans, Midwesterners, older Americans and whites.

John F. Kennedy, who had the highest average job approval rating of the last eight presidents (70 percent) while in office from 1961 until his assassination in 1963, is still the favorite among Americans, with a present rating of 83 percent. More than eight out of 10 Americans say they approve of the way Kennedy handled the presidency.

In the survey, conducted between March 18 and 20, 2002, John F. Kennedy was number one, followed by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter received above average scores, while Bill Clinton's score was average, followed by Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon whose scores were below average.

Jimmy Carter averaged only 45 percent while in office, but in retrospect, 60 percent of Americans approve of how he handled the presidency. Likewise, Gerald Ford averaged 47 percent during his brief time in office, between August 1974 and January 1977, but he now receives a 60 percent approval rating.

George H.W. Bush's average job approval rating while in office is the second highest of any of the last eight presidents (61 percent), but currently gets a 69 percent approval rating.

Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon's approval ratings suffered in retrospective polling. Both did well in their first terms in office, with Johnson getting a 74 percent average when he took over after the Kennedy assassination in 1963, and Nixon receiving 56 percent in his first term.

But respondents now give Johnson a 39 percent approval rating, down 16 points from his term average of 55 percent by the time he left office. Nixon, who received only a 34 percent approval rating in retrospect.

The results are based on telephone interviews from a randomly selected national sample of 1,009, 18 years and older. There was a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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