According to a new Gallup survey, President John F. Kennedy remains the highest-rated president in modern history. President Ronald Reagan came in second with a 74% approval rating while Richard Nixon remained last with 29%. The survey, published Monday, asked Americans "whether they approve or disapprove of how each [president] handled his job in office." Here are four takeaways from the new poll:

  • In Many Ways, It's About How You Leave Office, writes James Joyner at Outside the Beltway:
John Kennedy has become radically more popular in death than he ever was as president.  But he's a special case:  a handsome, charismatic fellow who was martyred in office.

On the flip side, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were both essentially forced from office. ... Ronald Reagan was well liked, if polarizing.  He took a brief hit after the Iran-Contra scandal but had rebounded nicely by the time he left office.  But he's been virtually sanctified since, as not only the mythological hero of Republicans but the kind of GOP leaders Democrats pine for.

  • With Time, Presidents Become More Popular, observes Alison Harding at CNN, looking at the poll: "Reagan, Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush have all earned higher retrospective job approval ratings than the ratings they earned at the end of their presidencies. Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton's ratings have remained about the same as they were at the end of their respective terms."
  • Bush Appears to Be Vindicated, writes James Hohmann at Politico: "Bush's 47 percent approval rating also raises serious questions about the wisdom of the White House's decision to relentlessly attack him in the months before the Democrats' historic losses in the midterm elections." The "rebound," he continues, also "gives some credence to what he has long said--that history will eventually judge his presidency."
  • Here's the Big Surprise: Carter and Clinton  "The most noticeable change in this year's survey is the rise of Bill Clinton and fall of Jimmy Carter," says Bruce Drake at Politics Daily:
Carter had left office with a dismal 34 percent approval rating in a Gallup poll after his one term, compared to Clinton's rebound to 66 percent in 2001 despite the cloud over his presidency from the 1998 Monica Lewinsky affair. Clinton ended his term on a high approval note, thanks to a booming economy that offset the damage from the Lewinsky scandal. Gallup surveys at the time suggested that the public separated in its mind how he was doing his job as president compared to its opinion of Clinton's personal behavior (only 24 percent considered him "honest and trustworthy" in January 1999).