CNN Poll: JFK remains most popular past president
January 20th, 2011
12:00 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: JFK remains most popular past president

(CNN)–It's a golden anniversary Thursday for John F. Kennedy's inauguration. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner will mark the 50th anniversary with a tribute ceremony, that will include remarks by Vice President Joe Biden, at noon ET in the rotunda of the US Capitol.

And fifty years later, JFK's popularity endures. A CNN/Opinion Research poll indicates that most Americans continue to have a positive view of how the president handled his White House duties.

Full results (pdf)

"Eighty-five percent of all Americans approve of the way Kennedy handled his job as president, ranking him first among all the presidents who have served in the White House in the last half-century," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Thursday is also the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's first inauguration. President Reagan places third on the list of historic approval ratings for presidents since almost seven in 10 Americans say that they approve of his job performance in the White House.

President Bill Clinton edged Reagan out of second place with a 72 percent approval rating in the poll. Of the ex-presidents tested, four received a positive rating along with Presidents Kennedy, Clinton, and Reagan: Presidents George H. Bush, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Lyndon Johnson.

Less than half the nation approved of two former presidents. Three in 10 approve of President Richard Nixon and 40 percent approve of President George W. Bush.

Check out CNN's new Polling Center, which provides the most comprehensive polling data of any news organization in the political landscape.


Filed under: CNN poll • John F. Kennedy • Polls • Ronald Reagan
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Glenn Koons

    This is such an absurd poll. A 3 yr nice looking guy with few accomplishments beats out a corrupt Clinton and the best Prez since FDR in Ronaldus Magnus. Who was polled; college campus dopes??? And we wonder why we are now 36th among nations in education and why there are so many uninformed voters. Yipe.

    January 20, 2011 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. Jake

    Yeah, he was so great his daughter is censoring a historical movie of his presidency. His presidency was full of glitz and glamour no doubt. His public relations staff was excellent.

    However, the press gave him a pass on things they haven't given subsequent presidents. If, he was subjected to the same scrutiny as contemporary presidents, his reputation wouldn't be so good.

    Once you get past the high society veneer of the Kennedy presidency, and look for the substantive accomplishments, you realize he was simply an average president.

    January 20, 2011 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  3. moabie

    I do remember in the year before his assassination (I was 13 when he died), lots of adults in our area were saying they didn't know whether they'd vote for him if he were to run against Nelson Rockefeller. I love Kennedy too, and I'm always thankful that he didn't have a poll run every week, and have to contend with a 24-hour-a-day uncontrolled party-machine news network (owned by a foreigner, no less!). But what was best about him was not always being right–but his ability to learn and grow and change. Oh, yeah, and take responsibility for his own mistakes.

    January 20, 2011 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  4. a little sad

    Bill would get elected in a heartbeat, if he could run again.

    January 20, 2011 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    JFK is the first and only President I've seen in person during his campaign and I tell you he was the most handsome man like our President Obama. JFK was so popular until our high school, in Ohio, dismissed class to allow us to see him in person, I will never forget his image.

    January 20, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA

    People remember that he handled the Cuban missile crisis well, he had a nice family and Camelot was all in style, he started the NASA program to land on the moon and that he was killed while in office. Also, back then the media refused to report on his affairs and health problems. NOTHING like today, for sure. Had they done that, would he be so liked today?

    Too bad the Democrats and Obama didn't remember he CUT TAXES to get out of a downturn. Had they done the same thing TWO YEARS AGO instead of spending a trillion dollars on liberal pork projects and maintaining state union jobs, we would be well on the road to recovery. Guess it just didn't fit with their failed Progressive logic and share the wealth approach.

    January 20, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. BGJ

    The ultimate triumph of style over substance..JFK gave us the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam. He is given credit for his handling of the Cuban missile crisis, but somehow escapes the blame for causing it and for what he had to give up to solve the crisis.

    January 20, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. STEVE RAYMOND

    his old man made a profit from the crash of 1929- then was hired to help fix it by FDR-
    his old man was a bootlegger and had ties to the mob
    his old man as said that the Nazi would win the war
    jfk and old teddy mind you were sleeping with everything anything that had a hairy hole
    jfk got us involved in vietnam
    jfk the arms race with the soviets
    -–got us involved in vietnam

    his popularity is only based on public perception – young, good public speaker, high social status (see barry in any of this?)

    jfk family history and what he did in his short time in office does not make him a good president i dont know why his popularity would be so high

    my guess is just uneducated voters..........funny, things never change.........

    January 20, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "People remember that he handled the Cuban missile crisis well,"

    Bay of Pigs was an unmitigated disaster.

    "Guess it just didn't fit with their failed Progressive logic and share the wealth approach."

    Actually, it didn't fit with any of the facts or evidence about how the economy works accumulated over the past century nor what the top economists int he country and world were telling us to do. It also didn't fit with the fact that the Bush tax cuts didn't create jobs, didn't stop the recession from happening, didn't help the recession end and constitute the largest single contributing factor to the national debt and deficit. "Progressive" has nothing to do with it...it has to do with admitting that reality sends us actual feedback and doesn't give a penguin's turd on an iceberg what your ideology tells you about how reality is SUPPOSED to work.

    January 20, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Awesome!

    Clinton beat that phony-baloney idiot Reagan. Yay! As usual CNN buried the lead.

    January 20, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  11. GI Joe

    At least he wasn't a co-star to a monkey in a movie - and didn't have alzheimers like that idiot RAYGUN.

    January 20, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  12. Chuckie888

    And just how was Clinton "corrupt"? Because of the false charges thrown at him like monkey feces? He left office without even one of his staff members being convicted of anything - despite a six year onslaught against him by a Republican congress and a complicit "liberal" media.

    In contrast, the man in the oval office with the GREATEST number of staff convictions? Your holy Ronald Reagan. And rightly so... The seeds for the mess we have now were planted by Reagan White House policy. There's your corruption right there!

    January 20, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. Radiant

    JFK will always be golden.

    January 20, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  14. Chuckie888

    And LBJ was one of our worst presidents in history and an evil man. The only good things to come out of LBJ's White House were Kennedy initiatives which Johnson cannily realized he needed to follow through on lest he pale in historical memory beside him doomed, dapper predecessor.

    January 20, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    I have lived through his administration, and can honestly say, that his Presidency is grossly over-hyped. He made many mistakes, and his main claim to fame, include an attractive personal persona, and a couple of very good speeches.

    January 20, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. GOP Taliban Victim

    FDR is even better. Yet the right-wing propellor heads are always jealous and try to discredit his accomplishments.

    January 20, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. vic nashville tn

    We don’t like democratic president when they were in the power after they left the office we love them Why we believe all the rumors

    Ronald Reagan actually moderate conservative

    January 20, 2011 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. A True Centrist

    Interesting that cnn does not show the breakdown of repubs, dems, inds in the poll. There is NO WAY JFK and Clinton beat Reagan if the breakout was even. Being from MA, I have a huge amount of respect for JFK, but the reality is that he didn't serve a full-term and his record with the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam alone drop him on this list.

    January 20, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  19. BestProfitBusiness = WAR

    He is the most popular even though he lied about not wanting to get involve with Vietnam but behind the scenes it was the opposite. I am not sure if (like all presidents) he got bad military advice or was a puppet that the neocons use to start wars... I believe its both!

    January 20, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. SSBlakeley

    To: Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA, If i listed all the Pork republicans have added toour deficit would that make you feel any different? Most likely not. If I mention to you that the republican tax cut has added to the deficit would you feel anydifferent? I think not. So the real question is: Whats your point??

    January 20, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. civility is cool

    "Too bad the Democrats and Obama didn't remember he CUT TAXES to get out of a downturn"

    What part of the fact that the greatest percentage of the "stimulus", or Recovery Act as it is correctly called, was a TAX CUT FOR THE MIDDLECLASS don't YOU remember??!! You know "Protecting and Defending Freedom of Speech in the USA" is all well and good, but it's good to know what you're speaking about before you speak!

    January 20, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  22. Bill

    J. Edgar Hoover said in 1962 about the Kennedy's when Teddy was elected to the Senate " My God we'll be stuck with Kennedy's into the 21st century." The Kennedy's are the closest thing to royalty America has seen. Kennedy was short on substansive accomplishments, yet he died young, a martyr, and was the WW2 generations poster boy in the 60's. Civil Rights would not have passed under Kennedy. It took a southerner Lyndon Johnson to persuade the South that the time had come.

    January 20, 2011 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. Phil in KC

    I have always admired Kennedy. While I am old enough to remember Eisenhower, he did not make an impact on me. Kennedy, however, was another story. I don't think he was perfect, but I wonder if modern-day presidents really deserve all the scrutiny they get. I don't really care if Clinton was getting a little side action as long as he performed his duties well – and he did. So, if John was sharing Marilyn Monroe with Bobby, that's between him and Jackie. He did his job very well and brought us back from the brink of nuclear destruction. Most of the social programs enacted under Johnson were his ideas, too.

    January 20, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  24. Beagle

    Stupid poll and stupid comment. "Eighty-five percent of all Americans approve of the way Kennedy handled his job as president..." Look at the age demographic. No way 85% of todays Americans were even around when Kennedy was president.

    January 20, 2011 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  25. k

    Funny that the two most poular presidents are Kennedy and Lincoln-both assasinated while in office......
    Who knows what Kennedy might have done more harm than good?

    January 20, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
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