After holding office for approximately four months, President Reagan receives a favorable rating from two out of three Americans for his handling of his presidential duties.

In the latest Gallup Poll, 68 percent of the public expresses approval of Reagan's performance in office, with 21 percent disapproving and 11 percent undecided.

These ratings are very close to those accorded President Carter at a similar point in 1977. At that time, 66 percent of Americans approved of Carter's handling of the presidency, while 19 percent disapproved and 15 percent withheld judgment.

Reagan's current approval rating is slightly higher than 62 percent recorded for Richard Nixon at a comparable time in his first term, in 1969, but below those received by John F. Kennedy (77 percent) in 1961 and Dwight D. Eisenhower (74 percent) in 1953.

The following table compares Reagan's latest ratings with those of his elected predecessors four months after the start of their tenure.[TABLE OMITTED]

The public usually grants incoming presidents the benefit of the doubt for a brief period after they assume office, the so-called honeymoon period. Eisenhower, for example, was given a 68 percent approval rating (with only 7 percent disapproval) in early 1953; Kennedy was acclaimed by 72 percent, with 6 percent dissenting, in early 1961; Nixon earned a 60 percent positive rating, with 5 percent disapproving, in February, 1969, and Carter had a popularity rating of 66 percent, with 8 percent negative, shortly after he took office in 1977.

The mid-February announcement of Reagan's economic plan had two immediate policical consequences. First, it was a dramatic proposal with far-reaching implications that effectively cut short the honeymoon permiod. Second, it was seen as depriving many low-income families of social benefits, the Reagan "safety net" notwithstanding.

Shortly after the March 30 assassination attempt, 67 percent of Americans approved of Reagan's handling of his presidential duties, a level which has persisted through the latest measurement.

Although Reagan's current popularity tends to be higher among voter groups which supported him in the 1980 presidential election -- men, whites, the college-educated, and, of course, Republicans -- his approval ratings have improved among all voter groups since the mid-March survey.

Even among non-whites, few of whom voted for President Reagan, and many of whom are apprehensive about the effects of Reagan's economic program, his approval rating has grown, from 22 percent approval in the March survey to 31 percent at present. However, Reagan's present rating among non-whites still ranks among the lowest recorded at comparable periods during previous presidencies.

The question:

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way [name of incumbent] is handling his job as president?"

And here is the trend in Reagan's approval ratings. [TABLE OMITTED]

The results reported today are based on in-person interviews with 1,519 adults, 18 and older, conducted in more than 300 scientifically selected localities across the nation during the period of May 8-11.

For results based on a sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects could be three percentage points in either direction.