Only 6% want Clinton back as president, most choose Reagan

The public's view of former President Bill Clinton as one of America's most admired has taken a huge hit, and now just 6 percent want him as their "next president," according to a new survey.

And a chief reason is his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to a University of Virginia Center for Politics-Reuters/Ipsos poll. "In 2012, Hillary Clinton had strong favorability nationally while she was secretary of state. Once she re-entered the political fray and was the target of negative attacks for two years, her numbers eroded significantly, and that erosion appears to apply to her husband as well," said Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato.

From the list of presidents who served between 1950 and 2000, which one or two stand out in your mind as the best president(s)?

The survey analysis added:

Bill Clinton has suffered a sharp decline since 2012. Whereas 33 percent of respondents rated him as a 9 or 10 on a 0 to 10 scale five years ago, our new poll finds just 16 percent rate him as a 9 or 10. This shift comes from an across-the-board partisan decay in positive views of the former president, with more Democrats, Republicans, and Independents rating Clinton more unfavorably. Bill Clinton's worsened public perception may mirror the similar decline of his wife, Hillary Clinton, during and in the aftermath of a brutal, unsuccessful presidential election.

Suppose you could bring back any of the U.S. presidents, living or dead, to be the next president of the United States. Who would you most want to be the next president?

Only Clinton suffered such as drop in the survey, and one, John F. Kennedy soared to the top.

The survey found that 53 percent named JFK as one of the top presidents, and 87 percent "expressed at least mildly favorable views of Kennedy."

Still, former President Ronald Reagan edged Kennedy, 23 percent to 22 percent, as the former president the public would like as their next president.

Other key highlights from poll analysis:

-- When given a number of words and phrases used to describe Kennedy, respondents generally thought positive descriptors applied to Kennedy more than negative ones. However, respondents in this poll were not as impressed by JFK in several ways as respondents in 2012. Asked to rate different terms and phrases to describe Kennedy on a scale from 0 to 10, 50% said "charismatic" was a 9 or 10 versus 61% in 2012, 39% rated "courageous" as a 9 or 10 compared to 48% in 2012, and 47% rated "patriotic" as a 9 or 10 versus 56% in 2012.

-- JFK received the most bipartisan support from respondents regarding which former president (living or dead) they would want to be the next president. Ronald Reagan led on this question overall with 23%, followed by Kennedy with 22%, and Barack Obama 21%, as noted above. But JFK's support was more evenly split among partisans, with 25% of Democrats and 16% of Republicans choosing him. This support contrasted with Reagan and Obama: 50% of Republicans picked Reagan while only 6% of Democrats did, and 38% of Democrats picked Obama while only 7% of Republicans did. And Kennedy was also the most common answer for Independents, with 27% selecting him versus 18% for Obama and 17% for Reagan.

-- Obama's improvement and Clinton's decline on the question of which former president respondents would like to see be the next president of the United States was driven by changes among Democrats. In the 2012 poll, while Obama was seeking his second term, 41% of Democratic respondents picked Bill Clinton as the person they preferred to be the next president, while just 10% picked Obama. In the new polling, 38% of Democrats picked Obama while only 11% picked Clinton.

-- Respondents had a good sense of when Kennedy served: 78% were able to accurately select "the early 1960s" as when he served in office. Unsurprisingly, older respondents scored better on this question than younger ones: 95% of those over 60 knew when Kennedy served, while just 60% of those aged 18-29 did.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at

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