Polling News

Retrospective Approval Ratings of Previous Presidents

July 27, 2023

According to this year’s Gallup poll measuring the retrospective approval ratings of past presidents, seven of the nine previous presidents receive net-positive retrospective approval ratings. The two exceptions are Donald Trump, with 46% of Americans approving of the job he did in his initial retrospective approval rating, and Richard Nixon at 32%, John F. Kennedy is the highest at 90%. 

Why It Matters: The retrospective ratings for the nine presidents in Gallup’s survey are an average 12 points higher than these presidents’ final approval ratings in office. Trump is the sole exception. 

By The Numbers:

  • Kennedy (90%), Ronald Reagan (69%), George H.W. Bush (66%), Barack Obama (63%), Bill Clinton (58%), Jimmy Carter (57%), George W. Bush (57%) all enjoy net-positive and approval ratings over 50%. Trump (46%) and Nixon (32%) are both net-negative and under 50%. 
  • Kennedy (92%) receives the highest approval rating among Democrats, while Reagan (96%) receives the highest approval rating among Republicans. Trump is not far behind at 91%.
  • Carter (73%) and Nixon (41%) receive the lowest ratings from members of their parties.


The Bottom Line: Americans are generally more favorable to presidents once their terms are over. Trump and Nixon are the exceptions. Trump, however, enjoys a high rating among Republican voters. That’s not enough to win the presidency in 2024. His primary opponents who would have a better chance at success next November must learn how to navigate Trump’s high approval rating among Republicans while Trump should realize that to win back the White House, he must improve his standing with the majority of Americans who disapprove of him. 

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