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The top vote-getter was John F. Kennedy (29 percent), followed by Reagan (20 percent), FDR (18 percent) and Mr. Obama (16 percent).

As for other recent presidents, George W. Bush, who ranked 23rd in the 2002 survey, plummeted into the bottom five (39th place) in the 2010 survey. Among the two other living presidents, George H.W. Bush ranked 22nd, and Jimmy Carter ranked 32nd.

The younger Mr. Bush was ranked especially poorly in categories of handling the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign-policy accomplishments and personal intelligence.

Mr. Norquist said putting Mr. Bush in the bottom five was defensible, calling his eight-year term a disaster “that brought us Obama, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi. Those are hanging offenses, and I don’t see how you can escape responsibility for that.”

His tongue still firmly in his cheek, he said “that may not be” the reason the historians ranked Mr. Bush so low.

c Victor Morton and Kara Rowland contributed to this report.