CNN Poll: JFK tops presidential rankings for last 50 years

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Washington (CNN) — John F. Kennedy is the most popular president of the last half century, according to a new national poll

A CNN/ORC International survey released Friday indicates that 90% of all Americans approve of how Kennedy handled his job as President. No other President of the last half century even comes close.

Second place belongs to Ronald Reagan, with a 78% retrospective approval rating, followed by Bill Clinton with 74%.

Richard Nixon, Kennedy’s 1960 rival and the only president ever forced to resign, is at the bottom with only 31% approving of his track record from 1969 to 1974. Only George W. Bush, with a 42% retrospective approval rating, is also under 50%.

“History has generally been kind to ex-presidents, but none more so than Kennedy. His approval rating in November of 1963 was 58%. In the 1990s, that number rose to 78% and rose even further in later years,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The poll’s release comes on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.

There is no real generation gap in Kennedy’s approval rating. It stands at 89% among people under 50 who were not even born when Kennedy was killed, and at 92% among older Americans, most of whom would have memories of Camelot.

“Perhaps the real tribute to Kennedy’s legacy is that his approval rating is 90% in a time when it is nearly impossible to get nine in ten Americans to agree on anything,” added Holland.

The poll was conducted November 18-20 for CNN by ORC International, with 843 adult Americans questioned by telephone.

The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.