Yes, dividend investing is popular. And it may become even more popular, now that Congress has extended legislation that maintains the low tax rate on corporate payouts for next year. You can find many great dividend stalwarts among the companies that have successfully paid out cash for decades.

When searching for great dividend stocks, it makes a lot of sense to start with companies that have been playing the dividend game the longest. Standard & Poor's has culled the dividend winners from the also-rans in a list it calls the "dividend aristocrats." These companies have paid and increased their dividend for at least 25 years.

Standard & Poor's announced its annual adjustment to the dividend aristocrats in December, so this is the latest version of the popular list. Below are the 25 highest-yielding constituents, and you can click on any of the green plus signs next to the ticker symbols to add those stocks to your watchlist and get all of our Foolish analysis on the stock.

Company

Yield

5-Year Average Annualized Dividend Growth Rate

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL)

7.1%

65%

Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI)

6.2%

3%

Cincinnati Financial (Nasdaq: CINF)

4.9%

6%

Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED)

4.9%

1%

Leggett & Platt (NYSE: LEG)

4.8%

11%

Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB)

4.4%

8%

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT)

4.1%

10%

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)

3.7%

11%

McDonald's (NYSE: MCD)

3.3%

28%

Clorox (NYSE: CLX)

3.2%

14%

Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG)

3.2%

12%

Bemis (NYSE: BMS)

3.1%

5%

PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP)

3.0%

13%

Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO)

3.0%

9%

Automatic Data Processing (Nasdaq: ADP)

3.0%

16%

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT)

2.8%

15%

McGraw-Hill (NYSE: MHP)

2.7%

7%

Chubb (NYSE: CB)

2.7%

11%

VF Corp. (NYSE: VFC)

2.7%

17%

PPG Industries (NYSE: PPG)

2.5%

3%

3M (NYSE: MMM)

2.5%

5%

Emerson Electric (NYSE: EMR)

2.4%

10%

Aflac (NYSE: AFL)

2.4%

21%

McCormick (NYSE: MKC)

2.3%

10%

Air Products & Chemicals (NYSE: APD)

2.3%

9%

Source: Standard & Poor's.

According to a study by Ibbotson, reinvested dividends made up about 40% of total stock returns from 1926 to 2006. In fact, dividend investing is so appealing that superinvestor Warren Buffett has made it a significant component of his portfolio.

Given their strong track records, these stocks are a great place to begin your research, but they're not formal recommendations. High yields could be time bombs, and that really attractive high yield could suddenly die. So investigate such companies thoroughly, and diversify across sectors, no matter how delicious that dividend looks.

For a basket of some high-yield some dividend opportunities, click here to get The Motley Fool's five-page free report: "13 High-Yielding Stocks to Buy Today." You can also click on any of the green plus signs next to the ticker symbols above to add those stocks to your watchlist and get all of our Foolish analysis on the stock.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.