POLITICS
04/26/2013 02:48 pm ET

Presidents' Approval Ratings Often Rise After They Leave Office: Poll

AP

Most recent presidents became more popular with the American public after leaving office, according to polling data released by Gallup on Thursday.

Gallup tracked the approval ratings of nine presidents after they left office and found that on average, six were viewed better after their presidency ended: John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

The biggest exceptions were Richard Nixon, whose legacy has become entwined with the Watergate scandal, and Lyndon Johnson, who took office after the Kennedy assassination with a flood of support before losing popularity for his handling of the Vietnam War.

George W. Bush's average retrospective job approval was 47 percent -- about the same as his job approval rating while in office, which averaged at 49 percent, but considerably higher than his final 34 percent rating as president.

"George W. Bush's job evaluation definitely improved after he left office, but on a relative basis, he did still rank near the bottom of the list of presidents in terms of his retrospective approval ratings and Americans' predictions of how history will ultimately judge him," Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones writes.

Interest in Bush's legacy has renewed with the opening of his presidential library this week, and several recent polls indicate that his image has bounced back since he left office. An NBC/WSJ survey gave him a 47 percent approval rating, his highest since 2005. In a CNN poll, 42 percent of Americans said his term was a success, up from fewer than a third in 2009.

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