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Ex-Presidential Approval: Retrospective Evaluations of Presidential Performance

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Abstract

Political observers and presidents alike are preoccupied with the notion of presidential legacy. Speculation about how presidential actions will be viewed by future generations weighs heavily on the minds of chief executives as well as historians and analysts who seek to devise standards and techniques by which to measure the concept of legacy. In this article, I examine survey data on retrospective assessments about ex-presidential performance to examine developments over time. I also develop and empirically test a series of hypotheses to explain level of ex-presidential approval. I find that the public's retrospective evaluations of former presidential performance in office are linked to presidential approval during their administrations, incumbent presidential approval, whether or not they are deceased, and the length of time former presidents have been out of office.

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