Presidential Elections | 2008
Under Construction

In a 2000 American Perspective Article, "Where Have You Gone, Franklin Roosevelt?", Michael Nelson says:
In 1948 Professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. called on 55 of his fellow historians to grade each president (excluding the incumbent, Harry S. Truman) as either "great," "near great," "average," "below average," or a "failure." When Schlesinger averaged each president's grades, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, and Andrew Jackson scored as great presidents, Ulysses S. Grant and Warren G. Harding were rated as failures, and the rest fell in between.

In his second survey in 1962, Truman ended up in ninth place as a near-great president in the company of John Adams and Theodore Roosevelt. Dwight D. Eisenhower ranked 22nd. Republicans howled that Schlesinger had packed the jury with Democrats.

His son, commissioned a study in 1996. Eisenhower's stock has risen since the 1960s (he now regularly shows up among the top 10) but less because of any new appreciation of what long was thought to be his passive style of leadership than because of recent archival research that shows him to have been a deceptively strong "hidden-hand" leader.

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."
There have been other criticisms of presidential rankings.

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 8th. Franklin Roosevelt still ranked in the top three.

Rankings are based on averages of 6 quantitative rankings by groups of scholars from 1996 to 2016 as listed at Historical rankings at Wikipedia.

Sources included, Schlesinger, Sienna College, C-SPAN, the Wall Street Journal, The Institute for the Study of the Americas (located in the University of London's School of Advanced Study), The American Political Science Association (APSA), 538

The scores were averaged and summarized in a 10 pt. rating (10 - Great, 1-Failure). *

No. Name Pty State Dates Rat-
ing
Previous
1 Washington, George F VA 1789-97 9 General
2 Adams, John F MA 1797-1801 6 VP - Founding Father from MA
3 Jefferson, Thomas D-R VA 1801-09 9 Founding Father from VA
4 Madison, James D-R VA 1809-17 7 Founding Father - Representative from VA -Father of the Constitution
5 Monroe, James D-R VA 1817-25 7 VA Senator
6 Adams, John Quincy R/W MA 1825-29 6 MA Monroe's Secy of State
7 Jackson, Andrew D TN 1829-37 8 TN War of 1812 General
8 Van Buren, Martin D NY 1837-41 5 In Jackson's cabinet
9 Harrison, William Henry W IN -1841 2 Governor of IN
10 Tyler, John W VA 1841-45 2 VP
11 Polk, James D TN 1845-49 7 Congressman from TN
12 Taylor, Zachary W MS 1849-50 3 Mexican War General
13 Fillmore, Millard W NY 1850-53 2 VP - Succeeded
14 Pierce, Franklin D NH 1853-57 1 NH Senator
15 Buchanan, James D PA 1857-61 1 PA Senator and Polk's Secretary of State
16 Lincoln, Abraham R IL 1861-65 10 IL Congressman
17 Johnson, Andrew D IN 1865-69 1 TN Senator, VP succeeded
18 Grant, Ulysses S. R OH 1869-77 4 Civil War Union General
19 Hayes, Rutherford B. R OH 1877-81 4
20 Garfield, James R OH 1881-81 4 Ohio Senator
21 Arthur, Chester R NY 1881-85 4 VP - Succeeded
22,24 Cleveland, Grover D NY 1885-89, 1893-97 6 NY Governor
23 Harrison, Benjamin R IN 1889-93 4 Senator from Indiana
25 McKinley, William R OH 1897-1901 6 Congressman, OH Governor
26 Roosevelt, Theodore R NY 1901-09 9 NY Governor - VP Succeeded
27 Taft, William H. R OH 1909-13 5 Roosevelt's Secretary of War
28 Wilson, Woodrow D NJ 1913-21 8 NJ Governor
29 Harding, Warren R OH 1921-23 1 Governor of Ohio
30 Coolidge, Calvin R MA 1923-29 4 MA Governor
31 Hoover, Herbert R IA 1929-33 3 Coolidge's Secretary of Commerce
32 Roosevelt, Franklin D. D NY 1933-45 10 Governor of NY
33 Truman, Harry S D MO 1945-53 8 Senator from MO, VP Succeeded
34 Eisenhower, Dwight R TX/NY 1953-61 8 General - President of Columbia U.
35 Kennedy, John F. D MA 1961-63 7 MA Senator
36 Johnson, Lyndon D TX 1963-69 7 TX Senator, VP Succeeded
37 Nixon, Richard R CA 1969-74 4 CA Senator, VP
38 Ford, Gerald R MI 1974-77 5 MI Congressman, VP Succeeded
39 Carter, Jimmy D GA 1977-81 5 GA Governor
40 Reagan, Ronald R CA 1981-89 7 CA Governor
41 Bush, George H.W. R TX 1989-93 6 VP
42 Clinton, William J. D AR 1993-2001 6 AR Governor
43 Bush, George W. † R TX 2001-08 2 TX Governor
43 Obama, Barack D IL 2009-2016 6 IL Senator
Average: Republicans - 5.0, Democrats - 5.5

* To compute the 10 pt. rating I averaged the rankings at Wikipedia and sorted them from low to high, giving 10's to the best and 1's to the worst. I gave fewer high rankings, 2 10's, 3 9's, ... Although not a normal distribution it pushed more to the middle. I broke the ratings where there were gaps in the average scores.

Historical rankings of presidents of the United States - Wikipedia

Pty - Party: F- Federalist, D-R - Democratic-Republican, R-W National Republican/Whig, W - Whig R - Republican, D - Democrat

The top ten based on individual ranks from 1-43 are:
Rank President Range
1 Abraham Lincoln 1-  3
2 Franklin D. Roosevelt 1-  3
3 George Washington 1-  4
4 Theodore Roosevelt 3-  5
5 Thomas Jefferson 2-  7
6 Harry S. Truman 5-  8
7 Woodrow Wilson 6-11
8 Andrew Jackson 6-13
9 Dwight D. Eisenhower 8-12
10 James K. Polk 9-14
  John Adams 9-16
  John Kennedy 8-18
The Times Online includes Ronald Regan (8) instead of Andrew Jackson.

 
Princeton University political scientist, Fred I. Greenstein, focuses his 2000' book The Presidential Difference on "emotional intelligence"--a president's ability to "manage his emotions and turn them to constructive purposes." Greenstein also looks at five other, less important, leadership traits.
He judges three of FDR's five Democratic successors to be deficient in emotional intelligence (Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Clinton), but faults only one of the five modern Republicans (Richard Nixon).
Tops with a positive score in all five leadership traits was Nixon. Eisenhower, Ford, Regan and Kennedy also had an overall positive score in that order. Truman, Johnson, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and Carter had a negative average.

Nelson says "Although Greenstein claims to have "avoided presidential rankings,". Surely the historians were right to place Kennedy, Johnson, and Truman above Nixon and Ford, in contrast to Greenstein's arrangement. But they were wrong to rank Reagan with the average presidents (as they did in Schlesinger, Jr.'s 1996 survey), just as Greenstein is right to rate him more highly."

The greatness of the presidents in Landy and Milkis's ("Presidential Greatness") hall of fame--Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and FDR--has less to do with power than with purpose. Great presidents are "conservative revolutionaries" who in uncertain times "teach the nation about the need for great change but also about how to reconcile change with American constitutional traditions and purposes.


Midterm Approval Ratings
Midterm Approval Ratings
2012 at RealClearPolitics.com

Presidental Job Approval rating eisenhower nixon, regan clinton bush

Job Approval
See: George W. Bush Approval Ratings at Gallup
and a summary of other rankings at the Roper Center

Job Approval   Job Approval Presidental Job Approval rating eisenhower nixon, regan clinton bush

Appointments:
Male White Government experience Former generals Billionaires
George W. Bush First confirmed cabinet 83% 74% 96% 4% 0%
Barack Obama First confirmed cabinet 65% 52% 87% 4% 0%
Donald Trump Nominees as of Jan. 26, 2017 82% 86% 55% 9% 9%
Source: Trump’s $6 Billion Cabinet: Bloomberg.com

Links:
U.S. Economics - Budget - Spending - Deficit - Taxes
National Monuments established by presidents
Where Have You Gone, Franklin Roosevelt? by Michael Nelson for the American Perspective Nov., 2000
Historical rankings of United States Presidents at Wikipedia
Sienna polls 1982-2010
Historical rankings of United States Presidents at Answers.com
Gallup Public Poll
What Makes a President Great?, 2005 poll for the Federalist Society by James Lindgren, published in the Wall Street Journal

Books:


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last updated 31 Jan 2017