John F. Kennedy and Presidential Polling Popularity

Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics

The build-up to the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination has produced renewed interest in the 35th president. PBS showed an interesting two-part series on him last week, and John Kerry believes that Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone.

I’ll confess that I’ve never thought much of Kennedy as president, which, according to a recent poll, seems to put me out of step with many Americans. Unfortunately, this NYT poll doesn’t include a link to the entire poll results, but I wasn’t surprised by the results.* Kennedy placed fourth in the poll, behind Reagan, Lincoln, and Clinton. Kennedy has historically fared well in these polls of the general American public, which probably surprises no one.

Kennedy’s assassination cast an air of mystique around his image that resonates today. Many Americans who remember where they were when he was killed remain enamored of him, and they seem to have…

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