The Full Wiki

Historical rankings of United States Presidents: Wikis

Advertisements
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum and President Calvin Coolidge selected Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln to appear on Mount Rushmore.

In political science, historical rankings of United States Presidents 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 (such as corruption).

Contents

General findings

George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are consistently ranked at the top of the lists. Often ranked just below those three are Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. The remaining top 10 ranks are often rounded out by James Madison, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Woodrow Wilson, and Harry S. Truman. The bottom ranks often include Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Warren G. Harding. William Henry Harrison and James A. Garfield both died shortly after entering office, and are sometimes not included in the rankings as a result.

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?"[1] Indeed, Richard Nixon scores very poorly in opinion polls but usually ranks better among historians. By contrast, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy tend to score highly in popular opinion polls, but rank highly less often in polls of historians because their negative qualities have been largely forgotten, for Reagan because he was seen as helping end the Cold War and for Kennedy because of sympathy after his assassination. But most often the reason presidents are hard to classify is either because their foreign policy success or failure stands in contradiction to their domestic policy achievements, such as Lyndon B. Johnson's failure in the Vietnam War compared to the success of his Great Society programs, or their personal behavior contrasts with their professional success, such as Nixon's Watergate and Bill Clinton's Lewinsky scandal.

Notable scholar surveys

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.
Andrew Johnson routinely receives poor marks because of his handling of Reconstruction.

The 1948 poll was conducted by historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. of Harvard University.[2] The 1962 survey was also conducted by Schlesinger, who surveyed 75 historians; the results of this survey are given in the book The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents by William A. Degregorio. Schlesinger's son Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. conducted another poll in 1996, not currently on the chart below.

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 President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was ranked #22 in 1962, but was ranked #9 in the 1982 survey.

The Siena Research Institute of Siena College conducted surveys in 1982, 1990, 1994, and 2002. The 1994 survey placed only two Presidents, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, above 80 points, and placed two Presidents, Andrew Johnson and Warren G. Harding, below 50 points.[3][4]

The 1996 column shows the results from a poll conducted from 1989 to 1996 by William J. Ridings, Jr. and Stuart B. McIver, and published in the book Rating the Presidents: A Ranking of U.S. leaders, from the Great and Honorable to the Dishonest and Incompetent. 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.[5] 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:[6]

  • "George W. Bush has just finished five years as President. If today were the last day of his presidency, how would you rank him? The responses were: Great: 2%; Near Great: 5%; Average: 11%; Below Average: 24%; Failure: 58%."
  • "In your judgment, do you think he has a realistic chance of improving his rating?” Two-thirds (67%) responded no; less than a quarter (23%) responded yes; and 10% chose no opinion or not applicable."

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."[6]

The C-SPAN Survey of Presidential Leadership consists of rankings from a group of presidential historians and "professional observers of the presidency"[7] who ranked presidents in a number of categories initially in 2000 and more recently in 2009.[8][9] 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, and James Buchanan the worst.

Advertisements

Scholar survey results

  • Green backgrounds indicate top quartile. Red backgrounds indicate bottom quartile.
No President Political party Schlesinger 1948 poll rank Schlesinger 1962 poll rank 1982 Murray-Blessing survey Chicago Tribune 1982 poll rank Siena 1982 poll rank Siena 1990 poll rank Siena 1994 poll rank Ridings- McIver 1996 poll rank CSPAN 1999 poll rank Wall Street Journal 2000 poll rank Siena 2002 poll rank Wall Street Journal 2005 poll rank CSPAN 2009 poll rank
Total in survey 29 31 36 38 39 40 41 41 41 39 42 40 42
01 George Washington Independent 02 02 03 03 04 04 04 03 03 01 04 01 02
02 John Adams Federalist 09 10 09 14 (tie) 10 14 12 14 16 13 12 13 17
03 Thomas Jefferson Democratic-Republican 05 05 04 05 02 03 05 04 07 04 05 04 07
04 James Madison Democratic-Republican 14 12 14 17 09 08 09 10 18 15 09 17 20
05 James Monroe Democratic-Republican 12 18 15 16 15 11 15 13 14 16 08 16 14
06 John Quincy Adams Democratic-Republican 11 13 16 19 17 16 17 18 19 20 17 25 19
07 Andrew Jackson Democratic 06 06 07 06 13 09 11 08 13 06 13 10 13
08 Martin Van Buren Democratic 15 17 20 18 21 21 22 21 30 23 24 27 31
09 William Henry Harrison Whig  –  –  – 38 26 35 28 35 37  – 36  – 39
10 John Tyler Whig 22 25 28 29 34 33 34 34 36 34 37 35 35
11 James K. Polk Democratic 10 08 12 11 12 13 14 11 12 10 11 09 12
12 Zachary Taylor Whig 25 24 27 28 29 34 33 29 28 31 34 33 29
13 Millard Fillmore Whig 24 26 29 31 32 32 35 36 35 35 38 36 37
14 Franklin Pierce Democratic 27 28 31 35 35 36 37 37 39 37 39 38 40
15 James Buchanan Democratic 26 29 33 36 37 38 39 40 41 39 41 40 42
16 Abraham Lincoln Republican 01 01 01 01 03 02 02 01 01 02 02 02 01
17 Andrew Johnson Democratic 19 23 32 32 38 39 40 39 40 36 42 37 41
18 Ulysses S. Grant Republican 28 30 35 30 36 37 38 38 33 32 35 29 23
19 Rutherford B. Hayes Republican 13 14 22 22 22 23 24 25 26 22 27 24 33
20 James A. Garfield Republican  –  –  – 33 25 30 26 30 29  – 33  – 28
21 Chester A. Arthur Republican 17 21 26 24 24 26 27 28 32 26 30 26 32
22/24 Grover Cleveland Democratic 08 11 17 13 18 17 19 16 17 12 20 12 21
23 Benjamin Harrison Republican 21 20 23 25 31 29 30 31 31 27 32 30 30
25 William McKinley Republican 18 15 18 10 19 19 18 17 15 14 19 14 16
26 Theodore Roosevelt Republican 07 07 05 04 05 05 03 05 04 05 03 05 04
27 William Howard Taft Republican 16 16 19 20 20 20 21 20 24 19 21 20 24
28 Woodrow Wilson Democratic 04 04 06 07 06 06 06 06 06 11 06 11 09
29 Warren G. Harding Republican 29 31 36 37 39 40 41 41 38 37 40 39 38
30 Calvin Coolidge Republican 23 27 30 27 30 31 36 33 27 25 29 23 26
31 Herbert Hoover Republican 20 19 21 21 27 28 29 24 34 29 31 31 34
32 Franklin D. Roosevelt Democratic 03 03 02 02 01 01 01 02 02 03 01 03 03
33 Harry S. Truman Democratic  – 09 08 08 07 07 07 07 05 07 07 07 05
34 Dwight D. Eisenhower Republican  – 22 11 09 11 12 08 09 09 09 10 08 08
35 John F. Kennedy Democratic  –  – 13 14 (tie) 08 10 10 15 08 18 14 15 06
36 Lyndon B. Johnson Democratic  –  – 10 12 14 15 13 12 10 17 15 18 11
37 Richard Nixon Republican  –  – 34 34 28 25 23 32 25 33 26 32 27
38 Gerald R. Ford Republican  –  – 24 23 23 27 32 27 23 28 28 28 22
39 Jimmy Carter Democratic  –  – 25 26 33 24 25 19 22 30 25 34 25
40 Ronald Reagan Republican  –  –  –  – 16 22 20 26 11 08 16 06 10
41 George H. W. Bush Republican  –  –  –  –  – 18 31 22 20 21 22 21 18
42 Bill Clinton Democratic  –  –  –  –  –  – 16 23 21 24 18 22 15
43 George W. Bush Republican  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  – 23 19 36
44 Barack Obama Democratic  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

Because Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms as both the 22nd and 24th President, the total number of Presidents in each poll is at least one less than the number of the most recently serving President in the poll. Because of their short time in office, Presidents William Henry Harrison and James Garfield are sometimes omitted from these polls.

More than 1,000 people have participated in the surveys. 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. 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.

Liberal and conservative raters

The Murray-Blessing 1982 survey[10] asked historians whether they were liberal or conservative on domestic, social and economic issues. 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). Conservatives placed Democrat Harry S. Truman at a higher ranking.

Rankings by Liberals and Conservatives
Rank Liberals (n=190) Conservatives (n=50)
1 Lincoln Lincoln
2 Franklin Roosevelt Washington
3 Washington Franklin Roosevelt
4 Jefferson Jefferson
5 Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt
6 Wilson Jackson
7 Jackson Truman
8 Truman Wilson
9 Lyndon Johnson Eisenhower
10 John Adams John Adams
...
30 Coolidge Carter
31 Pierce Nixon
32 Buchanan Pierce
33 Andrew Johnson Andrew Johnson
34 Grant Buchanan
35 Nixon Grant
36 Harding Harding

Popular opinion

ABC poll

An ABC News poll about presidential greatness, taken 16–20 February 2000, asked 1012 adults in the US, "Who do you think was the greatest American president?"[11]

  1. Abraham Lincoln (19%)
  2. John F. Kennedy (17%)
  3. Franklin 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 Truman (2%)
  12. Richard Nixon (2%)
  13. Jimmy Carter (1%)
  14. Dwight Eisenhower (1%)

Rasmussen Reports poll

A Rasmussen Reports poll taken June 13–24 of 2007 asked 1,000 randomly selected adults to rate America's presidents. 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 respondents.

  1. George Washington (94% favorable, 2% unfavorable)
  2. Abraham Lincoln (92% favorable, 4% unfavorable)
  3. Thomas Jefferson (89% favorable, 4% unfavorable)
  4. Theodore Roosevelt (84% favorable, 8% unfavorable)
  5. Franklin D. Roosevelt (81% favorable, 12% unfavorable)
  6. John F. Kennedy (80% favorable, 13% unfavorable)
  7. John Adams (74% favorable, 9% unfavorable)
  8. James Madison (73% favorable, 8% unfavorable)
  9. Ronald Reagan (72% favorable, 22% unfavorable)
  10. Dwight Eisenhower (72% favorable, 15% unfavorable)
  11. Harry Truman (70% favorable, 14% unfavorable)
  12. Andrew Jackson (69% favorable, 14% unfavorable)
  13. Gerald Ford (62% favorable, 26% unfavorable)
  14. John Quincy Adams (59% favorable, 7% unfavorable)
  15. Ulysses S. Grant (58% favorable, 24% unfavorable)
  16. George H.W. Bush (57% favorable, 41% unfavorable)
  17. Jimmy Carter (57% favorable, 34% unfavorable)
  18. William Taft (57% favorable, 15% unfavorable)
  19. Woodrow Wilson (56% favorable, 19% unfavorable)
  20. Bill Clinton (55% favorable, 41% unfavorable)
  21. James Monroe (49% favorable, 10% unfavorable)
  22. Herbert Hoover (48% favorable, 34% unfavorable)
  23. Lyndon B. Johnson (45% favorable, 42% unfavorable)
  24. Andrew Johnson (45% favorable, 26% unfavorable)
  25. Chester Arthur (43% favorable, 17% unfavorable)
  26. James A. Garfield (42% favorable, 16% unfavorable)
  27. William McKinley (42% favorable, 24% unfavorable)
  28. George W. Bush (41% favorable, 59% unfavorable)
  29. Grover Cleveland (40% favorable, 26% unfavorable)
  30. Calvin Coolidge (38% favorable, 31% unfavorable)
  31. Rutherford B. Hayes (38% favorable, 19% unfavorable)
  32. Richard Nixon (32% favorable, 60% unfavorable)
  33. Benjamin Harrison (30% favorable, 35% unfavorable)
  34. Warren Harding (29% favorable, 33% unfavorable)
  35. James Buchanan (28% favorable, 32% unfavorable)
  36. James Polk (27% favorable, 21% unfavorable)
  37. Zachary Taylor (26% favorable, 18% unfavorable)
  38. Martin Van Buren (23% favorable, 19% unfavorable)
  39. William Harrison (21% favorable, 16% unfavorable)
  40. Franklin Pierce (17% favorable, 25% unfavorable)
  41. Millard Fillmore (17% favorable, 25% unfavorable)
  42. John Tyler (9% favorable, 15% unfavorable)

Washington College poll

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?"[12]

  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 Johnson (<1%)

Gallup poll

A Gallup poll about presidential greatness, taken February 9–11, 2007, asked 1006 adults in the US, "Who do you regard as the greatest United States president?"[11]

  1. Abraham Lincoln (18%)
  2. Ronald Reagan (16%)
  3. John F. Kennedy (14%)
  4. Bill Clinton (13%)
  5. Franklin Roosevelt (9%)
  6. Other/None/No opinion (8%)
  7. George Washington (7%)
  8. Harry Truman (3%)
  9. George W. Bush (2%)
  10. Theodore Roosevelt (2%)
  11. Dwight Eisenhower (2%)
  12. Thomas Jefferson (2%)
  13. Jimmy Carter (2%)
  14. Gerald Ford (1%)
  15. George H.W. Bush (1%)
  16. Richard Nixon (0%)

Recent president polls

These polls evaluate Presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower and later succession.

Quinnipiac University poll

A Quinnipiac University poll, taken May 23–30, 2006, asked 1,534 registered American voters to pick the worst U.S. President of the last 61 years.[13]

"Which of these eleven presidents we have had since World War II would you consider the worst presidentHarry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Senior, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush?"

  1. George W. Bush (34%)
  2. Richard Nixon (17%)
  3. Bill Clinton (16%)
  4. Jimmy Carter (13%)
  5. Don't Know/No Answer (5%)
  6. Lyndon Johnson (4%)
  7. George H. W. Bush (3%)
  8. Ronald Reagan (3%)
  9. Gerald Ford (2%)
  10. Harry Truman (1%)
  11. John Kennedy (1%)
  12. Dwight Eisenhower (<1%)

USA Today/Gallup poll

A USA Today/Gallup Poll, taken December 8–10, 2006, asked 1009 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?"

USA Today/Gallup poll 2006
Result George W. Bush Bill Clinton George H.W. Bush Ronald Reagan Jimmy Carter Gerald Ford
1. outstanding 4% 12% 5% 24% 11% 6%
2. above average 15% 33% 27% 40% 27% 17%
3. average 27% 29% 50% 26% 38% 60%
4. below average 25% 15% 10% 6% 13% 9%
5. poor 29% 10% 8% 4% 9% 3%
unsure - - - 1% 3% 5%

See also

References

Further reading

  • 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. http://mason.gmu.edu/~pubp502/Pres.rating.mss.pdf.  
  • 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.  
  • 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


Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message