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CNN Today

Gallup Poll: Americans Believe Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton Worst U.S. Presidents

Aired February 21, 2000 - 1:26 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Presidents Day is more than a day off work for government and bank employees, or for furniture stores to put sofas on sale, it's also a day for the nation to pause and honor its leaders. Who are America's favorites and least favorites?

Gallup's Frank Newport is here to tell us what he's found out about that -- Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Good day, Lou.

The historians tell us it's Abraham Lincoln, the greatest president we've ever had. And, in fact, that's what the U.S. public has said in our previous polls in previous years, but not this year. Now, we just finished this last week and we said, who's the greatest president we've ever had in this country? -- over 40 of them. John Kennedy wins. You can see, 22 percent of Americans say Kennedy, then Lincoln, then FDR and then Ronald Reagan. Washington is actually -- George Washington is fifth here.

One reason Kennedy may do well this year is that there was a lot of attention, of course, to his legacy when his son tragically died last summer. We think that may have had some impact on how Americans responded to this question.

There's some interesting age differences in this question, who's the greatest president we've ever had? Young people, like 18-29 years of age, still say Kennedy, even though none of those were alive when he was president. Old people, 65 years and over, senior citizens, are actually much more likely to mention Franklin Roosevelt than are others. Of course, they remember him in the Depression and World War II.

Who's the worst president we've ever had? Well, we can show you Americans come down on Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, the top two. They don't remember Ulysses Grant or Warren Harding. This isn't surprising. We'll see what happens as history goes on. This is partisan, of course, as we can show you here. Republicans much more likely to say, yes -- over there on the left -- Bill Clinton was the worst president we've ever had, Independents kind of split down the middle. Democrats, of course, more likely to say it wasn't Clinton, it was Richard Nixon when he resigned in disgrace back in 1974. Nixon tried to up his image. We'll see how successful Bill Clinton will be after he retires next year. That's where the public stands on our Presidents Day 2000. Back to you in Atlanta.

WATERS: All right, Frank Newport with Gallup.

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