- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2003

Abraham Lincoln remains dear to Americans’ hearts, according to a recently released Gallup poll.

Lincoln topped the list of the nation’s greatest presidents, followed by John F. Kennedy. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were tied for third, followed by Ronald Reagan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry S. Truman, Jimmy Carter and Theodore Roosevelt in the top 10.

George H.W. Bush, Thomas Jefferson, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon were ranked next, according to respondents, followed by the catch-all categories “other,” “none” and “no opinion.”

The public’s opinion of their top leader is influenced by huge events and passing fancies alike — from a president’s crisis management to the cut of his suit or the tone of the latest news analysis. Researchers at the University of Minnesota, in fact, two years ago established a set of psychological traits that made a president seem “great.”

Based on the opinions of 100 historians and other White House observers, the group found that leaders who resonated with their public were “stubborn and disagreeable, are more extroverted, open to experience, assertive, achievement striving, excitement seeking and more open to fantasy, esthetics, feelings, actions, ideas and values.”

Even historic titans are subject to the prevailing winds of popularity.

Washington’s numbers have fallen slightly since 1999, when Gallup began its annual presidential poll. He was cited as the “greatest” by 12 percent of respondents four years ago; the number now stands at 7 percent.

Lincoln was named by 18 percent in 1999; the number is now 15 percent. Mr. Kennedy was at the height of his popularity in 2000, when he was cited by 22 percent. The figure this year was 13 percent.

Meanwhile, the Gallup Poll conducted in April found “dramatic but not necessarily surprising difference between the Republicans’ and Democrats’ choices for the greatest president in history.”

Presidents Bush, Lincoln and Reagan were the top three choices for Republicans. Democrats picked Presidents Kennedy, Clinton and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Gallup found concepts of presidential greatness vary by age as well. “Americans tend to select a leader from the formative years of their generation,” the poll stated.

Those 18 to 29 rated Mr. Clinton at the top, followed by Mr. Bush and Lincoln — who tied — and Washington. Among 30- to 49-year-olds, Lincoln took the honors, followed by Presidents Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt in a tie for second place, and Mr. Reagan.

Fifty- to 64-year-olds named Mr. Kennedy as their choice for greatest president, followed by Lincoln, Washington and Mr. Bush. Those 65 years and older named Franklin D. Roosevelt to the top spot, followed by Lincoln, Mr. Bush, and Presidents Kennedy and Truman, who were tied in fourth place.

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