Franklin D. Roosevelt has retained his top ranking among the greatest presidents of the modern era, a new nationwide Zogby International telephone poll shows. Roosevelt has dominated Zogby's Presidential Greatness survey since 1997 - only losing out to John F. Kennedy in 2006 and 2002.
Roosevelt was rated "great" or "near great" by 69% of those surveyed, while 67% said they feel the same way about Kennedy. Both Roosevelt and Kennedy experienced slightly lower greatness rankings in this year's poll - 78% ranked Roosevelt as great or near great last year compared to 74% who felt the same about Kennedy. The Zogby survey of 1,026 likely voters was conducted February 22-23, 2008, and contains a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
President George W. Bush - who hit all-time low job-performance numbers last year - experienced a slight boost on the greatness scale in the final year of his presidency. The current president moves up to ninth place out of the last twelve presidents in this year's survey from a ranking of 10th in 2007 - 22% rate Bush as great or near great this year, up from 21% last year. His recent rankings are still far shy of his all-time high greatness rating of 63% in 2002, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Fewer than half of Republicans (40%) view Bush as a great or near great president.
Bush has also surpassed Richard Nixon as the modern president with the highest negative rating - 52% of those surveyed place the current president at the bottom end of the scale as either "below average" or a "failure", compared to 50% who said the same about Nixon. Bush also beats out Nixon on the failure scale - one in three Americans (33%) say Bush is a failure as a president, up from 30% who said the same last year. Most Democrats (60%) view Bush as a failure, but half as many independents (29%) feel the same, compared to just 7% of Republicans. This year's survey finds 21% view Nixon as a failed president.
Gerald Ford, who experienced a dramatic boost to seventh place in the poll last year following his death in December 2006, falls back to 11th-place this year. Ford - the only person to hold the office of president who had not been elected - fell from a 43% greatness rating in 2007 to just 18% in this year's survey. Ford again tops the average list with 58%, followed by George H. W. Bush (50%) and Lyndon B. Johnson (45%).
Ronald Reagan holds on to his third-ranked spot this year, with 62% of those surveyed giving him a combined great or near great ranking - a slight increase from the 59% positive rankings in last year's survey. Reagan has continued to rank highly in Zogby's Presidential Greatness surveys since his death in 2004.
Among living presidents, Bill Clinton continues to be ranked highest at 42% - while the other three trail behind on the greatness scale at 27% for George H.W. Bush, 25% for Jimmy Carter, and just 22% for George W. Bush.