Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Presidents Poll

I've seen several comments about the Gallup release yesterday detailing approval ratings for former presidents.  I'll add two things.  First, I'm always happy to see Jimmy Carter's reputation going down; he really was an awful president.  Second, it's no surprise at all that Kennedy and Reagan continue to get very high marks.  Four postwar ex-presidents have had serious campaigns to improve their legacy: Kennedy and Reagan had campaigns on their behalf, and Nixon and Carter basically campaigned on their own.  Of course, the former two were more popular while in office, but overall it does seem to me that if you really want your reputation to flourish, what you need to do is to get some serious institutional momentum behind the idea that you were a great president.   As always with public opinion on stuff like this, when what people hear is one-sided, it's apt to be pretty effective at moving the polling results.


  1. Does 47% for GWB seem like a high number to you?

  2. Some part of the results might be based on actual substance rather than mere perception, which in turn might encourage institutional assistance. Maybe your analysis places a bit too much emphasis on the cart and places it before the horse.

  3. Martin,

    No, it seems that people mostly want to like their ex-presidents.


    I disagree! I think the Kennedy industry has virtually nothing to do with Kennedy's actions as president, and the Reagan industry has relatively little to do with Reagan's actions as president, although the latter does have something to do with Reagan's (pre-presidential) status as a conservative icon.

  4. Yes, that's probably right.

    It seems to me that the most interesting thing in the data is that Clinton and GHWB jumped ahead of a four-president clot who all had about the same ratings, and Carter moved dropped out of the same group.


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