Here’s some Gallup findings that are fun to think about:
Young people, like people who know what they’re talking about, rate Lincoln as Top President. Middle-aged people, meanwhile, are hard-core rightwingers — they put Reagan at the top and have an unusual aversion to FDR. Old people, by contrast, love FDR. The really weird thing here, that you also see in a lot of other polls, is a truly bizarre level of Kennedy-love. If conservatives want to say that Ronald Reagan was a better president than Lincoln or Roosevelt or the oddly underrated George Washington, then we’ll just need to agree to disagree. But I can’t imagine a coherent ideological viewpoint that would justify the high ratings Americans over-35 give to Kennedy.
Now of course if you could take the Kennedy-Johnson years as a whole, then divide them up into one presidency that was dominated by Vietnam and another one that’s responsible for Civil Rights and the Great Society, then you’d have one shitty president and one great president. A lot of people seem to have basically decided to divide things up this way and call the shitty president “Johnson” while the good president is called “Kennedy.” That, however, doesn’t have a great deal to do with reality.