Who do you think was considered the best president in American history? A team of experts was recently commissioned by C-SPAN to answer that question definitively and the results are fascinating. They ranked each president according to a number of different factors such as public persuasion, crisis leadership, international relations, and vision while in office. So which of the presidents since 1774 were the cream of the crop, the best of the best?
Presidential rankings tend to be subjective and divisive, but they also provide valuable insight into how historical views of presidents evolve over time. In the recent survey, nearly 200 political science scholars ranked US presidents on a scale of 0-100, from failure (zero) to average (50) to great (100). The totals were then averaged for each president and ranked from highest to lowest.
Here are the greatest US presidents, ranked according to current and recent members of the American Political Science Association: The top seven spots were unchanged from 2014, with Lincoln coming in first with an average rating of 95.03, followed by George Washington with an average of 92.59 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt with an average of 89.09. Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor, ranked eighth—up 10 slots from 2014—with an average rating of 71.13. Ronald Reagan jumped two spots from 11th to ninth, with an average of 69.24. And Bill Clinton dropped from eighth to 13th, with an average of 64.25.
The 2017 version, which polled 91 historians, saw several presidents rise and fall in the rankings. Historians evaluated them based on 10 qualities of presidential leadership, including economic management, international relations, crisis leadership, public persuasion skills and whether they pursued equal justice for all. According to a C-SPAN survey of the historians, Barack Obama ranked as the 12th best president, getting good grades for his vision and setting an agenda, managing the economy, public persuasion, “pursuing equal justice for all” and “moral authority.”
Obama was docked for his diplomatic record, judged below-average in handling international relations. His marks for “relations with Congress” would have earned him an F — only a handful of presidents scored lower.
The least and the bottom ranking 44 is the current President, 44: Donald Trump. James Buchanan, who was at the helm as the United States careened into civil war, was dislodged from his position as our nation’s worst president by our current president, Trump.
According to Newsweek, “Donald J. Trump makes his ranking debut at the bottom of the list,” the survey states. “His average rating is 12.34, which is nearly three points lower than James Buchanan (15.09), who previously occupied the lowest rank.” Buchanan, who was America’s 15th president, oversaw the debate over slavery and saw the Union split apart after his successor, Abraham Lincoln, was elected.
Although he is the 45th president, Trump was rated as 44th best, which was the lowest ranking because the survey did not count Grover Cleveland’s nonconsecutive terms separately. Trump didn’t even rank well among self-identified Republicans and conservatives, coming in 40th.