Reagan, Clinton Still Regarded as Best Recent American Presidents

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton continue to be the most popular recent former heads of state for Americans, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample of 1,006 American adults, 38 per cent of respondents think Reagan has been the best President of the United States of the past four decades, while a slightly smaller proportion (34%) chooses Bill Clinton.

No other recent White House dweller reaches double digits on this question. Incumbent Barack Obama is third on the list with six per cent, followed by George W. Bush (3%), Jimmy Carter (also 3%), Richard Nixon (2%), George H. W. Bush (1%) and Gerald Ford (also 1%).

Reagan gets his best numbers in the South (41%) and the West (40%), while Clinton is more popular in the Northeast (39%). The two former presidents are virtually tied in the Midwest (Reagan 35%, Clinton 34%).

Two thirds of Republican voters (67%) pick Reagan as the best recent president, while three-in-five Democrats (62%) select Clinton. Almost half of Independents (46%) choose Reagan in this question, with Clinton a distant second (29%).

When asked who the worst president since 1969 is, 28 per cent of Americans pick George W. Bush, and the same proportion (28%) choose Barack Obama. Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon are tied for third place on this list with nine per cent each, followed by George H. W. Bush (6%), Bill Clinton (4%), Gerald Ford (2%) and Ronald Reagan (2%).

Animosity towards the Bush 43 presidency is highest in the Northeast (30%) and the West (34%), while Obama is more unpopular in the South (34%).

Most Republicans (57%) think Obama is the worst recent president, while most Democrats (53%) select Bush 43. Independents are evenly divided, with about a quarter (26%) choosing either Bush or Obama on this question.

Compared to a similar Angus Reid Public Opinion survey conducted in June 2010, Reagan is up six points on the Best President question, and Obama has gained five points on the Worst President question.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From October 10 to October 11, 2012, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,006 randomly selected American adults who are Springboard America panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of the United States. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.