On our national poll last week we asked Americans their opinion about every former President of the last 50 years. Here's how they rank from most popular to least popular as measured by net favorability:
1) John F. Kennedy (74/15 favorability, net of +59). JFK is the only one of the former Presidents seen positively by a majority of Democrats (90/6), independents (70/16), and Republicans (59/25). A majority of voters within every demographic subgroup included in the poll has a favorable view of Kennedy.
2) Ronald Reagan (60/30 favorability, net of +30). Reagan is just as popular with Republicans as Kennedy is with Democrats at a 90/7 spread. And although not quite to the same extent as Kennedy he has exceptionally good numbers with independents as well at 62/28. Where he really falls short is the crossover popularity- only 35% of Democrats like him with 51% expressing a dim view.
3) Bill Clinton (62/34 favorability, net of +28). The most interesting thing about Clinton's numbers is probably that he's more popular with black voters than any of the other Presidents of the last 50 years, just barely edging Kennedy at an 86/9 spread. 33% of Republicans express a positive opinion of him which seems remarkable given the level of vitriol toward him while he was actually in office.
4) Gerald Ford (45/26 favorability, net of +19). Ford, along with Kennedy, is the only one of the former Presidents seen in a positive light by Republicans (49/23), independents (49/24), and Democrats (39/31) alike. That makes him the most popular of the former GOP Presidents with Democratic voters. He's also the only one of the people we polled who is more popular with voters in the middle than those on either the far left or far right.
5) George H.W. Bush (53/35 favorabiltiy, net of +18). The elder Bush is the third most popular of the former Presidents with Republican voters, ranking behind Reagan and Kennedy. He's in good standing with independents at 55/33.
6) Jimmy Carter (45/43 favorability, net of +2). Carter is easily the least favorite President of Republican voters from this time period at a 20/74 breakdown, faring even worse than Richard Nixon. Voters under 30 give him his best reviews and they get worse as you move across the age spectrum- in other words the people who actually lived through Carter's administration are far more likely to give him a thumbs down.
7) Lyndon B. Johnson (36/39 favorability, net of -3). What plunges LBJ's numbers into negative territory is that Republicans dislike him (16/61) to a greater extent than Democrats like him (54/22). That makes him the least popular of the former Democratic Presidents with Democratic voters. Almost all of these folks are a lot more popular now than they were when they left office so if this is where LBJ is even 42 years since leaving the White House he might have been right not to seek reelection.
8) George W. Bush (41/51 favorability, net of -10). The more recent President Bush is the least popular of the Republicans with Democrats, doing even worse than Nixon at 13/79. His numbers are better now than they were in his closing years of office though because all appears to be pretty much forgiven with GOP voters- he's at 79/16 with them.
9) Richard Nixon (19/62 favorability, net of -43). There is one subgroup in the entire poll that rates Nixon favorably- 'very conservative' voters, who give him a 37/36 spread. He has the worst numbers of anyone with independents (22/64), is the second most unpopular with Democrats behind GWB at 9/72, and also does poorly with Republicans at 31/49.
Full results here