Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States

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In the 1920s, sculptor Gutzon Borglum and President Calvin Coolidge selected Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln to appear on Mount Rushmore. It has become an iconic symbol of presidential greatness.

In political science, historical rankings of Presidents of the United States are surveys conducted in order to construct rankings of the success of individuals who have served as President of the United States. Ranking systems are usually based on surveys of academic historians and political scientists or popular opinion. The rankings focus on the presidential achievements, leadership qualities, failures and faults.[1][2][3]

General findings[edit]

Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and George Washington are consistently ranked at the top of the lists. Often ranked just below those Presidents are Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. The remaining places in the top ten are often rounded out by Harry S. Truman, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, James K. Polk, and Andrew Jackson. Presidents such as John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton tend to be rated among the greatest in public opinion polls, but do not always rank as highly among presidential scholars and historians. The bottom ten often includes Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, Warren G. Harding, Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover, Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, John Tyler, and George W. Bush. Because William Henry Harrison (32 days) and James A. Garfield (200 days, incapacitated after 119 days) both died shortly after taking office, they are sometimes omitted from presidential rankings. Zachary Taylor also died after serving as president for only 16 months, but is usually included. In the case of these three, it is not clear if they received low rankings due to their actions as president, or because each was president for such a limited time that it is not possible to assess them more thoroughly.

Political scientist Walter Dean Burnham noted the "dichotomous or schizoid profiles" of presidents, which can make some hard to classify. Historian Alan Brinkley said, "There are presidents who could be considered both failures and great or near great (for example, Nixon)". James MacGregor Burns observed of Nixon, "How can one evaluate such an idiosyncratic president, so brilliant and so morally lacking?"[4]

David H. Donald, noted biographer of Lincoln, relates that when he met John F. Kennedy in 1961, Kennedy voiced his deep dissatisfaction and resentment with historians who had rated some of his predecessors. Kennedy said, "No one has a right to grade a President—even poor James Buchanan—who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions."[5]

Historian and political scientist Julian E. Zelizer argues that traditional presidential rankings do not explain much concerning actual presidential history, and that they are "weak mechanisms for evaluating what has taken place in the White House."[6]

Notable scholar surveys[edit]

Abraham Lincoln is often considered the greatest president for his leadership during the American Civil War and his eloquence in speeches such as the Gettysburg Address.

The 1948 poll was conducted by historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., of Harvard University.[1] The 1962 survey was also conducted by Schlesinger, who surveyed 75 historians.[7] Schlesinger's son Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., conducted another poll in 1996.[8]

The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents also gives the results of the 1982 survey, a poll of 49 historians conducted by the Chicago Tribune. A notable difference from the 1962 Schlesinger poll was the ranking of Dwight D. Eisenhower, which rose from #22 in 1962 to #9 in 1982.

The Siena Research Institute of Siena College conducted surveys in 1982, 1990, 1994, 2002, and 2010. The 1994 survey placed only two Presidents, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, above 80 points and two Presidents, Andrew Johnson and Warren G. Harding, below 50 points.[9][10] The 2010 Siena Survey had George W. Bush plummet from the initial 2002 ranking of 23 down to 39.

The 1996 column shows the results from a poll conducted from 1988 to 1996 by William J. Ridings, Jr., and Stuart B. McIver and published in Rating the Presidents: A Ranking of U.S. leaders, from the Great and Honorable to the Dishonest and Incompetent (2000, ISBN 0806521511). More than 719 people took part in the poll, primarily academic historians and political scientists, although some politicians and celebrities also took part. Participants from every state were included, and emphasis was placed upon getting input from female historians and "specialists in African-American studies", as well as a few non-American historians. Poll respondents rated the Presidents in five categories (leadership qualities, accomplishments & crisis management, political skill, appointments, character & integrity), and the results were tabulated to create the overall ranking.

A 2000 survey by The Wall Street Journal consisted of an "ideologically balanced group of 132 prominent professors of history, law, and political science". This poll sought to include an equal number of liberals and conservatives in the survey, as the editors argued that previous polls were dominated by either one group or the other, but never balanced. According to the editors, this poll included responses from more women, minorities, and young professors than the 1996 Schlesinger poll. The editors noted that the results of their poll were "remarkably similar" to the 1996 Schlesinger poll, with the main difference in the 2000 poll being the lower rankings for the 1960s presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy, and higher ranking of President Ronald Reagan at #8. Franklin Roosevelt still ranked in the top three.

Another presidential poll was conducted by The Wall Street Journal in 2005, with James Lindgren of Northwestern University Law School for the Federalist Society.[11] As in the 2000 survey, the editors sought to balance the opinions of liberals and conservatives, adjusting the results "to give Democratic- and Republican-leaning scholars equal weight." Franklin D. Roosevelt still ranked in the top-three, but editor James Taranto noted that Democratic-leaning scholars rated George W. Bush the sixth-worst president of all time, while Republican scholars rated him the sixth-best, giving him a split-decision rating of "average".

A 2006 Siena College poll of 744 professors reported the following results:[12]

Thomas Kelly, professor emeritus of American studies at Siena College, said: "President Bush would seem to have small hope for high marks from the current generation of practicing historians and political scientists. In this case, current public opinion polls actually seem to cut the President more slack than the experts do." Dr. Douglas Lonnstrom, Siena College professor of statistics and director of the Siena Research Institute, stated: "In our 2002 presidential rating, with a group of experts comparable to this current poll, President Bush ranked 23rd of 42 presidents. That was shortly after 9/11. Clearly, the professors do not think things have gone well for him in the past few years. These are the experts that teach college students today and will write the history of this era tomorrow."[12]

A 2010 Siena poll of 238 Presidential scholars found that former president George W. Bush was ranked 39th out of 43, with poor ratings in handling of the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments, and intelligence. Meanwhile, the current president, Barack Obama was ranked 15th out of 43, with high ratings for imagination, communication ability and intelligence and a low rating for background (family, education and experience).[13][14]

The C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership consists of rankings from a group of presidential historians and "professional observers of the presidency"[15] who ranked presidents in a number of categories initially in 2000 and more recently in 2009.[16][17] With some minor variation, both surveys found that historians consider Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin D. Roosevelt the three best presidents by a wide margin and William Henry Harrison (to a lesser extent), Warren G. Harding, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, George W. Bush and James Buchanan the worst.

In 2008, The Times newspaper asked eight of its own "top international and political commentators" to rank all 42 US presidents "...in order of greatness".[18]

In 2011, through the agency of its United States Presidency Centre (USPC), the Institute for the Study of the Americas (located in the University of London’s School of Advanced Study) released the first ever U.K. academic survey to rate U.S. presidents. This polled the opinion of British specialists in American history and politics to assess presidential performance. They also gave an interim assessment of Barack Obama, but his unfinished presidency was not included in the survey (had he been included, he would have attained eighth place overall).[19]

In 2012, Newsweek magazine asked a panel of historians to rank the ten best presidents since 1900. The results showed that historians had ranked Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama as the best since that year.[20]

A 2013 History News Network poll of 203 American historians, when asked to rate Barack Obama's presidency on an A–F scale, gave him a B- grade. Obama, whom historians graded using 15 separate measures plus an overall grade, was rated most highly in the categories of communication ability, integrity, and crisis management, and most poorly for his relationship with Congress and transparency and accountability.[21]

Scholar survey results[edit]

Note: Click the "sort" icon at the head of each column to view the rankings for each survey in numerical order.

No.PresidentPolitical partySchl. 1948Schl. 1962M-B 1982CT 1982Siena 1982Siena 1990Siena 1994R-McI 1996Schl. 1996C-SPAN 1999WSJ 2000Siena 2002WSJ 2005Times 2008**C-SPAN 2009Siena 2010USPC 2011Aggr.[22]
01George WashingtonNone020203030404040302030104010202040303
02John AdamsFederalist09100914 (tie)1014121411161312131317171212
03Thomas JeffersonDem-Repub050504050203050404070405040407050404
04James MadisonDem-Repub141214170908091017181509171520061413
05James MonroeDem-Repub121815161511151315141608162114071314 (tie)
06John Quincy AdamsDem-Repub111316191716171818192017251619192018
07Andrew JacksonDemocratic060607061309110805130613101413140908 (tie)
08Martin Van BurenDemocratic151720182121222121302324274031232724
09William Henry HarrisonWhig99  –99  –99  –382635283599  –3799  –3699  –39393599  –38 (tie)
10John TylerWhig222528293433343432363437353135373736
11James K. PolkDemocratic100812111213141109121011090912121610
12Zachary TaylorWhig252427282934332929283134332829333335
13Millard FillmoreWhig242629313232353631353538363337383538 (tie)
14Franklin PierceDemocratic272831353536373733393739384140403940
15James BuchananDemocratic262933363738394038413941404242424042
16Abraham LincolnRepublican010101010302020101010202020101030201
17Andrew JohnsonDemocratic192332323839403937403642372441433641
18Ulysses S. GrantRepublican283035303637383834333235291823262937
19Rutherford B. HayesRepublican131422222223242523262227242733313025
20James A. GarfieldRepublican99  –99  –99  –332530263099  –2999  –3399  –34282799  –29 (tie)
21Chester A. ArthurRepublican172126242426272826322630262232253228
22/24Grover ClevelandDemocratic081117131817191613171220121921202119
23Benjamin HarrisonRepublican212023253129303119312732303030343433
25William McKinleyRepublican181518101919181716151419141716211720 (tie)
26Theodore RooseveltRepublican070705040505030506040503050504020505
27William Howard TaftRepublican161619202020212022241921202924242522 (tie)
28Woodrow WilsonDemocratic040406070606060607061106111009080606
29Warren G. HardingRepublican293136373940414139383740393538413843
30Calvin CoolidgeRepublican232730273031363330272529232626292831
31Herbert HooverRepublican201921212728292435342931313634362629 (tie)
32Franklin D. RooseveltDemocratic030302020101010203020301030303010102
33Harry S. TrumanDemocratic99  –0908080707070708050707070705090707
34Dwight D. EisenhowerRepublican99  –2211091112080910090910080608101008 (tie)
35John F. KennedyDemocratic99  –99  –1314 (tie)0810101512081814151106111511
36Lyndon B. JohnsonDemocratic99  –99  –10121415131214101715181211161114 (tie)
37Richard NixonRepublican99  –99  –34342825233236253326323827302332
38Gerald FordRepublican99  –99  –24232327322728232828282522282426
39Jimmy CarterDemocratic99  –99  –25263324251927223025343225321827
40Ronald ReaganRepublican99  –99  –99  –99  –16 *22202625110816060810180817
41George H. W. BushRepublican99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –18 *312224202122212018222222 (tie)
42Bill ClintonDemocratic99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –16 *23 *20 *21 *24 *18222315131920 (tie)
43George W. BushRepublican99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –23 *19 *37 *36393134
44Barack ObamaDemocratic99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –99  –15 *99  –14 (tie) *
Total in survey293136383940414139413942404242434043
* Ranking calculated before President had completed his term in office. For G. W. Bush, the Siena ranking dropped from number 23 in 2002, to number 39 in 2010.
** The Times poll is a British newspaper's poll of eight of its own journalists, not of academics.
Note: Grover Cleveland was elected to two non-consecutive terms, serving as both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States; to date he is the only person to have achieved this distinction. Because of it, the total number of people who have served as President is one fewer than the number of Presidents in order of succession.

The surveys have been criticized for the way they have been organized.[23] At times, the surveys have had low responses.[23] The issue of the validity of the rankings has been of special interest to historians and political scientists, who have tried to specify the relative importance of personality, leadership, issues and partisanship. It has also been argued that those surveyed have tended to select their choices from personal preference rather than from a neutral perspective.[24] Historian Thomas Bailey describes the endeavor as trying to "measure the immeasurable".[25] Quantitative ranking by groups of scholars has been in favor in recent decades, displacing the traditional methods of evaluation by individual writers as typified by Bailey (1966) and most biographers.[26]

Liberal and conservative raters[edit]

The Murray-Blessing 1982 survey asked historians whether they were liberal or conservative on domestic, social and economic issues.[27] The table below shows that the two groups had only small differences in ranking the best and worst presidents. Both groups agreed on the composition of nine of the top ten Presidents (and were split over the inclusion of either Lyndon B. Johnson or Dwight D. Eisenhower), and six of the worst seven (split over Jimmy Carter or Calvin Coolidge).

Rankings by Liberals and Conservatives
RankLiberals (n=190)Conservatives (n=50)
1Franklin D. RooseveltAbraham Lincoln
2Abraham LincolnGeorge Washington
3George WashingtonFranklin D. Roosevelt
4Thomas JeffersonThomas Jefferson
5Theodore RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt
6Woodrow WilsonAndrew Jackson
7Andrew JacksonHarry S Truman
8Harry S TrumanWoodrow Wilson
9Lyndon B. JohnsonDwight D. Eisenhower
10John AdamsJohn Adams
30Calvin CoolidgeJimmy Carter
31Franklin PierceRichard Nixon
32James BuchananFranklin Pierce
33Andrew JohnsonAndrew Johnson
34Ulysses S. GrantJames Buchanan
35Richard NixonUlysses S. Grant
36Warren G. HardingWarren G. Harding

Excluded groups ranking approach[edit]

In 2002, Ronald Walters, former director of the University of Maryland's African American Leadership Institute, stated that presidents ranked by how each president balanced the interests of majority interests and the interests of excluded groups was practical in respect to American debate on racial politics. Presidents have traditionally been ranked on personal qualities and their leadership ability to solve problems that move the nation in a positive direction. Walters stated there was a qualitative difference between white and African American intellectuals in evaluating presidents. In the 1996 New York Times Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. poll, 31 white historians and one black historian ranked presidents on differing categories of greatness. In a survey done by Professor Hanes Walton, Jr., and Professor Robert Smith, in their text book American Politics And The African American Quest For Universal Freedom, 44 African American political scientists and historians ranked presidents in terms of racial attitudes and racial legislation proposed.[28] Individual president's attitudes, policies, and perspectives were historically ranked in five categories: White Supremacist; Racist; Racially Neutral; Racially Ambivalent; Antiracist.[29]

Popular opinion[edit]

C-SPAN poll[edit]

In addition to conducting a historian survey, C-Span also conducted a presidential leadership survey of 1145 viewers in December 1999.[30]

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  3. George Washington
  4. Theodore Roosevelt
  5. Ronald Reagan
  6. Harry S. Truman
  7. Woodrow Wilson
  8. Thomas Jefferson
  9. John F. Kennedy
  10. Dwight D. Eisenhower
  11. Lyndon B. Johnson
  12. James K. Polk
  13. Andrew Jackson
  14. James Monroe
  15. William McKinley
  16. John Adams
  17. Grover Cleveland
  18. James Madison
  19. John Quincy Adams
  20. George H.W. Bush
  21. Bill Clinton
  22. Jimmy Carter
  23. Gerald Ford
  24. William Howard Taft
  25. Richard Nixon
  26. Rutherford B. Hayes
  27. Calvin Coolidge
  28. Zachary Taylor
  29. James A. Garfield
  30. Martin Van Buren
  31. Benjamin Harrison
  32. Chester A. Arthur
  33. Ulysses S. Grant
  34. Herbert Hoover
  35. Millard Fillmore
  36. John Tyler
  37. William Henry Harrison
  38. Warren G. Harding
  39. Franklin Pierce
  40. Andrew Johnson
  41. James Buchanan

ABC poll[edit]

An ABC News poll about presidential greatness, taken February 16–20, 2000, asked 1,012 adults in the U.S., "Who do you think was the greatest American president?"[31]

  1. Abraham Lincoln (19%)
  2. John F. Kennedy (17%)
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt (11%)
  4. No opinion (10%)
  5. Ronald Reagan (9%)
  6. George Washington (8%)
  7. Bill Clinton (7%)
  8. Theodore Roosevelt (4%)
  9. George H. W. Bush (4%)
  10. Thomas Jefferson (3%)
  11. Harry S. Truman (2%)
  12. Richard Nixon (2%)
  13. Jimmy Carter (1%)
  14. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1%)

Washington College poll[edit]

A Washington College poll about presidential greatness, taken February 11, 2005, asked 800 adults in the US, "Thinking about all the presidents of the United States throughout history to the present, who would you say was America's greatest president?"[32]

  1. Abraham Lincoln (20%)
  2. Ronald Reagan (15%)
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt (12%)
  4. John F. Kennedy (11%)
  5. Bill Clinton (10%)
  6. Other/Don't Know (9%)
  7. George W. Bush (8%)
  8. George Washington (6%)
  9. Theodore Roosevelt (3%)
  10. Dwight Eisenhower (3%)
  11. Jimmy Carter (2%)
  12. Thomas Jefferson (2%)
  13. Richard Nixon (1%)
  14. John Adams (<1%)
  15. Andrew Jackson (<1%)
  16. Lyndon B. Johnson (<1%)

Gallup poll[edit]

A Gallup poll about presidential greatness, taken February 2–5, 2011, asked 1015 adults in the US, "Who do you regard as the greatest United States president?"[3]

  1. Ronald Reagan (19%)
  2. Abraham Lincoln (14%)
  3. Bill Clinton (13%)
  4. John F. Kennedy (11%)
  5. George Washington (10%)
  6. Franklin Roosevelt (8%)
  7. Barack Obama (5%)
  8. Theodore Roosevelt (3%)
  9. Harry Truman (3%)
  10. George W. Bush (2%)
  11. Thomas Jefferson (2%)
  12. Jimmy Carter (1%)
  13. Dwight Eisenhower (1%)
  14. George H. W. Bush (1%)
  15. Andrew Jackson (<1%)
  16. Lyndon B. Johnson (<1%)
  17. Richard Nixon (<1%)

Rasmussen poll[edit]

According to a Rasmussen poll conducted in 2007, six presidents—George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy—were rated favorably by at least 80% of Americans. [33]

PresidentFavorableUnfavorableNet favorable
George Washington94292
Abraham Lincoln92488
Thomas Jefferson89485
Theodore Roosevelt84876
Franklin D. Roosevelt811269
John F. Kennedy801367
John Adams74965
James Madison73865
Ronald Reagan722250
Dwight D. Eisenhower721557
Harry S. Truman701456
Andrew Jackson691455
Gerald Ford622636
John Quincy Adams59752
Ulysses S. Grant582434
George H. W. Bush574116
Jimmy Carter573423
William Howard Taft571542
Woodrow Wilson561937
Bill Clinton554114
James Monroe491039
Herbert Hoover483414
Lyndon B. Johnson45423
Andrew Johnson452619
Chester A. Arthur431726
James A. Garfield421626
William McKinley422418
George W. Bush4159-18
Grover Cleveland402614
Calvin Coolidge38317
Rutherford B. Hayes381919
Richard Nixon3260-28
Benjamin Harrison3035-5
Warren G. Harding2933-4
James Buchanan2832-4
James K. Polk27216
Zachary Taylor26188
Martin Van Buren23194
William Henry Harrison21165
Franklin Pierce1725-8
Millard Fillmore1725-8
John Tyler915-6

Recent president polls[edit]

These polls evaluate recent Presidents only.

2010 Gallup poll[edit]

A Gallup poll, taken on November 19–21, 2010, asked Americans to say, based on what they know or remember about the nine most recent former presidents, whether they approve or disapprove of how each handled his job in office.[34]

  1. John F. Kennedy (85% approval/10% disapproval)
  2. Ronald Reagan (74% approval/24% disapproval)
  3. Bill Clinton (69% approval/30% disapproval)
  4. George H. W. Bush (64% approval/34% disapproval)
  5. Gerald Ford (61% approval/26% disapproval)
  6. Jimmy Carter (52% approval/42% disapproval)
  7. Lyndon B. Johnson (49% approval/36% disapproval)
  8. George W. Bush (47% approval/51% disapproval)
  9. Richard Nixon (29% approval/65% disapproval)

Public Policy Polling[edit]

A Public Policy Polling poll, taken between September 8–11, 2011, asked 665 American voters, based on what they know or remember about the nine most recent former presidents, whether they hold favorable or unfavorable views of how each handled his job in office.[35]

  1. John F. Kennedy (74% favorability/15% unfavorability)
  2. Ronald Reagan (60% favorability/30% unfavorability)
  3. Bill Clinton (62% favorability/34% unfavorability)
  4. George H. W. Bush (53% favorability/35% unfavorability)
  5. Gerald Ford (45% favorability/26% unfavorability)
  6. Jimmy Carter (45% favorability/43% unfavorability)
  7. Lyndon B. Johnson (36% favorability/39% unfavorability)
  8. George W. Bush (41% favorability/51% unfavorability)
  9. Richard Nixon (19% favorability/62% unfavorability)

Vision Critical/Angus Reid poll[edit]

A Vision Critical/Angus Reid poll, taken on February 18–19, 2011, asked respondents about 11 former presidents plus the current president and whether they were a good or bad president.[36]

  1. John F. Kennedy (80% approval/6% disapproval)
  2. Ronald Reagan (72% approval/16% disapproval)
  3. Bill Clinton (65% approval/24% disapproval)
  4. Dwight D. Eisenhower (61% approval/6% disapproval)
  5. Harry S. Truman (57% approval/7% disapproval)
  6. Jimmy Carter (47% approval/28% disapproval)
  7. George H. W. Bush (44% approval/38% disapproval)
  8. Barack Obama (41% approval/33% disapproval)
  9. Gerald Ford (37% approval/25% disapproval)
  10. Lyndon B. Johnson (15% approval/27% disapproval)
  11. George W. Bush (30% approval/55% disapproval)
  12. Richard Nixon (24% approval/54% disapproval)

2013 Gallup poll[edit]

A Gallup Poll, taken February 7–10, 2013, asked 1039 adults in the US, "How do you think each of the following presidents will go down in history—as an outstanding president, above average, average, below average, or poor?"[37]

Gallup poll 2013
ResultBarack ObamaGeorge W. BushBill ClintonGeorge H. W. BushRonald ReaganJimmy CarterGerald FordRichard NixonLyndon JohnsonJohn F. KennedyDwight Eisenhower
1. outstanding6%3%11%3%19%4%2%2%4%18%10%
2. above average22%18%44%24%42%19%14%13%16%56%39%
3. average31%36%29%48%27%37%56%27%46%19%36%
4. below average18%20%9%12%6%20%15%29%14%2%2%
5. poor22%23%6%10%4%15%5%23%8%1%1%
no opinion1%1%1%2%2%6%8%6%12%4%12%

Quinnipiac poll[edit]

A Quinnipiac University poll, taken June 24–30, 2014, asked 1446 registered voters in the US who they thought were the best and worst presidents since World War II.[38]

Best president since World War II

  1. Ronald Reagan (35%)
  2. Bill Clinton (18%)
  3. John F. Kennedy (15%)
  4. Barack Obama (8%)
  5. Dwight Eisenhower (5%)
  6. Harry S. Truman (4%)
  7. Lyndon B. Johnson (tie) (3%)
  8. George H.W. Bush (tie) (3%)
  9. Jimmy Carter (2%)
  10. Richard Nixon (tie) (1%)
  11. Gerald Ford (tie) (1%)
  12. George W. Bush (tie) (1%)

Worst president since World War II

  1. Barack Obama (33%)
  2. George W. Bush (28%)
  3. Richard Nixon (13%)
  4. Jimmy Carter (8%)
  5. Lyndon B. Johnson (tie) (3%)
  6. Ronald Reagan (tie) (3%)
  7. Bill Clinton (tie) (3%)
  8. Gerald Ford (tie) (2%)
  9. George H.W. Bush (tie) (2%)
  10. Dwight Eisenhower (1%)
  11. Harry S. Truman (tie) (<1%)
  12. John F. Kennedy (tie) (<1%)

Siena College Research Institute survey[edit]


Seq.NameBackgroundParty leadershipCommunication abilityRelations with CongressCourt appointmentsHandling of economyLuckAbility to compromiseWilling to take risksExecutive appointmentsOverall abilityImaginationDomestic accomplishmentsIntegrityExecutive abilityForeign policy accomplishmentsLeadership abilityIntelligenceAvoid crucial mistakesExperts' viewOverall
1George Washington718123341341494223112134
2John Adams429182610132332161513172231912207151217
3Thomas Jefferson146461661185536145761655
4James Madison3101197121771596812514201721086
5James Monroe9121581499817816168101121315797
6John Quincy Adams234203516143029231315111842116265202119
7Andrew Jackson3021014272843851912131423619523121314
8Martin Van Buren161323192438331332252424272923252722272423
9William Henry Harrison243025313327423530243735363033392431333435
10John Tyler334239423931223926343529343337353633323637
11James K. Polk179131221157237161714112498102091112
12Zachary Taylor373528373724363428283427372131342537253333
13Millard Fillmore404140383533252537353836353638333939303538
14Franklin Pierce383737414034353638383939393840404038354040
15James Buchanan234041404241404143394242434042414340414342
16Abraham Lincoln28626451312212111523213
17Andrew Johnson424343434337394334424141423741384241424243
18Ulysses S. Grant262824222529212222402826262734242129313126
19Rutherford B. Hayes293330292926191833333332332830303230242931
20James A. Garfield202222243223412731292528252526312326222727
21Chester A. Arthur413132272819142127263025203227262832172625
22/24Grover Cleveland191617151722201924182022171917211925141920
23Benjamin Harrison393234283035293039363634323135283435233234
25William McKinley211419112318242021202123192218151827112021
26Theodore Roosevelt6735122121431264446342
27William Howard Taft143629301820322436222330211825233118282324
28Woodrow Wilson8891688153791085911101012429108
29Warren G. Harding433836343639372640434343404243374143394141
30Calvin Coolidge252438212630122841303237311728323328192829
31Herbert Hoover102631331943434042322638411329363714403836
32Franklin D. Roosevelt51122152332431631310421
33Harry Truman351514201561115677157886917869
34Dwight D. Eisenhower121721109118520171120139797195710
35John F. Kennedy1319413127276106147153513171111161411
36Lyndon B. Johnson153161510289121291253412431521371616
37Richard Nixon182026363825343314372219244324112916433730
38Gerald Ford272535172236311735233133301532273034262528
39Jimmy Carter31392739204038312521292129736293513363032
40Ronald Reagan3455731213141131191823262013836131718
41George H. W. Bush112733233432261629272731282022142224182222
42Bill Clinton22118251131041811101010411518149341513
43George W. Bush363942324142184219414040383939423842383939
44Barack Obama322171813171610131418616121622168211815

Five Thirty Eight analysis[edit]

In January 2013, New York Times journalist and statistician Nate Silver composed a composite list of previous presidential rankings by scholars for the purpose of predicting President Barack Obama's ranking among presidents.[40]

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
  3. George Washington
  4. Theodore Roosevelt
  5. Thomas Jefferson
  6. Harry Truman
  7. Woodrow Wilson
  8. Dwight D. Eisenhower
  9. John F. Kennedy
  10. Ronald Reagan
  11. James K. Polk
  12. Lyndon B. Johnson
  13. Andrew Jackson
  14. James Monroe
  15. James Madison
  16. John Adams
  17. Barack Obama
  18. Bill Clinton
  19. William McKinley
  20. John Quincy Adams
  21. Grover Cleveland
  22. George H.W. Bush
  23. Ulysses S. Grant
  24. Gerald Ford
  25. William Howard Taft
  26. Jimmy Carter
  27. Calvin Coolidge
  28. Chester A. Arthur
  29. Richard Nixon
  30. James A. Garfield
  31. Martin Van Buren
  32. Rutherford B. Hayes
  33. Zachary Taylor
  34. Benjamin Harrison
  35. Herbert Hoover
  36. John Tyler
  37. Millard Fillmore
  38. George W. Bush
  39. Andrew Johnson
  40. William Henry Harrison
  41. Warren G. Harding
  42. Franklin Pierce
  43. James Buchanan

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Schlesinger, Arthur M. "Historians Rate the U.S. Presidents" Life November 1, 1948: 65-66, 68, 73-74.
  2. ^ William J. Ridings, Jr., and Stuart B. McIver "Rating the Presidents: A Ranking of U.S. leaders, from the Great and Honorable to the Dishonest and Incompetent" (2000, ISBN 0806521511)Google Books Link
  3. ^ a b "Americans Say Reagan Is the Greatest U.S. President". Gallup.com. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  4. ^ Skidmore 2001
  5. ^ Donald, David H., Lincoln, 1995, p. 13
  6. ^ Zelizer (February 21, 2011), What's wrong with presidential rankings, CNN Opinion
  7. ^ Schlesinger, Arthur M. "Our Presidents: A Rating by 75 Historians." New York Times Magazine July 1962: 12-13, 40-41, 43.
  8. ^ "Rating the Presidents: Washington to Clinton". Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  10. ^ FDR America’s Greatest President August 19, 2002. Archived February 10, 2007.
  11. ^ "Presidential Leadership; The Rankings, Wall Street Journal Online, September 12, 2005
  12. ^ a b Experts: Bush Presidency Is A Failure; Little Chance To Improve Ranking, Siena Research Institute, May 1, 2006
  13. ^ Rushmore Plus One; FDR joins Mountainside Figures Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln as Top Presidents, Siena Research Institute, July 1, 2010
  14. ^ Thomas, G. Scott (2010-07-01). "Clean sweep for the Roosevelts ". Business First of Buffalo. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  15. ^ "C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership - Survey Participants". Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  16. ^ "C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership". Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  17. ^ "Lincoln Wins: Honest Abe tops new presidential survey". CNN. 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  18. ^ Griffin, Jeremy; Nico Hines (2008-10-28). "Who's the greatest? The Times US presidential rankings". The Times (London). Retrieved 2010-03-24. 
  19. ^ Iwan Morgan. "UK Survey of US Presidents: Results and Analysis". Retrieved 2013-10-10.
  20. ^ "From Franklin Delano Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy, Newsweek’s 10 Best Presidents (Photos)". The Daily Beast. September 24, 2012. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  21. ^ HNN Staff (September 8, 2013). "Historians Give Barack Obama a B-". History News Network. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  22. ^ Aggregate of all polls up to USPC 2011 using Copeland's method. Quartiles are allocated 10-11-11-11 rather than 11-11-11-10 because of a tie for 22nd place.
  23. ^ a b Jackie Smith (1997-09-01). "Nonresponse Bias in Organizational Surveys: Evidence from a Survey of Groups and Organizations Working for Peace". Nvs.sagepub.com. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  24. ^ "Scholar, Survey Thyself :: Accuracy In Academia". Academia.org. 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  25. ^ Greenberg, David (28 September 2012). "'Where They Stand' by Robert W. Merry". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  26. ^ Bailey, Thomas (1966). Presidential Greatness. Appleton-Century. 
  27. ^ Murray and Blessing, p. 135.
  28. ^ Walters (7-08-02),Presidency: How Do African-American Scholars Rank Presidents?, History News Network
  29. ^ Walton Jr., Hanes; Smith, Robert C. (2000). American Politics and the African American Quest for Universal Freedom. New York: Addison-Wesley Longman, Inc. pp. 201–202. 
  30. ^ "Life Portraits". American Presidents. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  31. ^ "Presidents & History". Pollingreport.com. 2000-01-26. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  32. ^ "Washington College | Search the Washington College Site". Starrcenter.washcoll.edu. Archived from the original on 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2010-10-30. 
  33. ^ "Washington, Lincoln Most Popular Presidents: Nixon, Bush Least Popular - Rasmussen Reports™". Rasmussenreports.com. 2007-07-04. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  34. ^ "Kennedy Still Highest-Rated Modern President, Nixon Lowest". Gallup.com. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  35. ^ JFK, Reagan, Clinton most popular recent ex-presidents September 15, 2011
  36. ^ Kennedy and Reagan Lead List of Good Presidents for Americans | Angus Reid Public Opinion Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  37. ^ http://www.gallup.com/poll/165902/americans-rate-jfk-top-modern-president.aspx
  38. ^ http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2056
  39. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20100706090046/http://www.siena.edu/pages/179.asp?item=2566 210 Report
  40. ^ Silver, Nate (2013-01-23). "Contemplating Obama's Place in History, Statistically". The New York Times. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bailey, Thomas A. (1966). Presidential Greatness: The Image and the Man from George Washington to the Present. New York: Appleton-Century.  → A non quantitative appraisal by leading historian.
  • Bose, Meena; Landis Mark (2003). The Uses and Abuses of Presidential Ratings. New York: Nova Science Publishers. ISBN 1590337948.  → A collection of essays by presidential scholars.
  • DeGregorio, William A. (1993). The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents (4. ed., rev., expanded, and up-dated ed.). New York: Barricade Books. ISBN 0942637925.  → Contains the results of the 1962 and 1982 surveys.
  • Faber, Charles; Faber, Richard (2000). The American Presidents Ranked by Performance. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0786407654. 
  • Felzenberg, Alvin S. (1997). "There You Go Again: Liberal Historians and the New York Times Deny Ronald Reagan His Due". Policy Review 82: 51–54. ISSN 0146-5945. 
  • Holli, Melvin G. (1999). The American Mayor: The Best & the Worst Big-City Leaders. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press. ISBN 0271018763. 
  • Miller, Nathan (1998). Star-Spangled Men America's Ten Worst Presidents. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0684836106. 
  • Murray, Robert K.; Blessing, Tim H. (1994). Greatness in the White House: Rating the Presidents, from Washington Through Ronald Reagan (2., updated ed.). University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press. ISBN 0271010894. 
  • Pfiffner, James P. (2003). "Ranking the Presidents: Continuity and Volatility". White House Studies 3: 23. ISSN 1535-4768. 
  • Ridings, William J., Jr.; McIver, Stuart B. (1997). Rating the Presidents: A Ranking of U.S. leaders, from the Great and Honorable to the Dishonest and Incompetent. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing. ISBN 0806517999. 
  • Merry, Robert W. Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians (2012) excerpt and text search
  • Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. (1997). "Ranking the Presidents: From Washington to Clinton". Political Science Quarterly 112 (2): 179–190. doi:10.2307/2657937. 
  • Skidmore, Max J. (2004). Presidential Performance: A Comprehensive Review. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0786418206. 
  • Skidmore, Max J. (2001). "Ranking and Evaluating Presidents: The Case of Theodore Roosevelt". White House Studies 1 (4): 495–505. ISSN 1535-4768. 
  • Taranto, James; Leo, Leonard (2004). Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and Worst in the White House. New York: Wall Street Journal Books. ISBN 0743254333.  → For Federalist Society surveys.
  • Vedder, Richard; Gallaway, Lowell (2001). "Rating Presidential Performance". In Denson, John V. (ed.). Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom. Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute. ISBN 0945466293. 
  • Eland, Ivan (2009). Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty. Oakland, California: Independent Institute. ISBN 1598130226. 

External links[edit]