01/16/2007 12:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Roosevelt Continues to Dominate Presidential Greatness Scale

Annual Zogby International poll shows Bush's ranking falls again;
Ford's rating more than doubles following his death in December

Franklin D. Roosevelt is back on top of the list of the greatest presidents of the modern era, returning to the highest ranking after Kennedy displaced him in last year's survey, my latest nationwide Zogby International telephone poll shows. Roosevelt has dominated Zogby's Presidential Greatness survey since 1997 - only narrowly losing out to Kennedy in 2006 and 2002.

Roosevelt was rated "great" or "near great" by 78% of those surveyed, while 74% said they feel the same way about Kennedy. Both Roosevelt and Kennedy experienced slightly higher greatness rankings in this year's poll - 71% ranked Roosevelt as great or near great last year compared to 73% who said they felt the same about Kennedy. The Zogby survey of 843 likely voters took place January 5-9, 2007, and carries a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

George W. Bush, who continues to struggle with dwindling job-performance numbers, trails Nixon as the modern president with the highest negative ranking - 50% of those surveyed place the current president at the low end of the scale, compared to 40% who felt the same last year. Even though Nixon has the greatest overall negative rating (57%), Bush beats him out on the failure scale - 30% say Bush is a failure as a president, compared to 23% who feel that way about Nixon. Just 21% rated Bush as a great or near great president this year - those numbers have fallen steadily since his all-time high greatness rating of 63% in 2002, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Gerald Ford showed a dramatic boost in the poll following his death in December. Ford - the only person to hold the office of president who had not been elected - had faired rather poorly on the greatness scale in past Zogby Presidential Greatness surveys. This year, he jumped from a 17% greatness rating last year to 43% in the recent poll. Ford has traditionally ranked as one of the most average of modern presidents - this year he still tops the average list, but shares the spot with George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson, all of whom received a 50% average rating (see chart below).

Ronald Reagan holds on to his third-ranked spot this year, with 59% of those surveyed giving him a combined great or near great ranking - a slight decrease from the 63% positive rankings in surveys from 2006 and 2005. Reagan has continued to rank highly in Zogby's surveys since his death in 2004.

Among living presidents, Bill Clinton continues to be ranked highest at 44% -- while the other three trail behind on the greatness scale at 31% for Jimmy Carter, 29% for George H.W. Bush and just 21% for George W. Bush.

Richard Nixon again claims the highest negative rating in our poll of modern presidents, with 57% of those surveyed giving low marks to the only president to have ever resigned from office. Nixon's negative rating jumped 10 points from 47% in last year's poll and has continued to increase since the initial presidential greatness poll in 1997. This year, one in three (34%) ranked Nixon as a below average president and 23% said he was a failure.

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