Presidential Elections | 2008

last updated 22 Mar 2024

See Trump and Biden below

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.

There have been numerous studies since then.

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

My latest iteration uses two new rankings by Siena College in 2022 using over 141 scholars ranking them on 20 different categories and the 2023 Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey was conducted online from November 15 to December 31, 2023. Respondents included current and recent members of the Presidents & Executive Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, which is the foremost organization of social science experts in presidential politics, as well as scholars who had recently published peer-reviewed academic research in key related scholarly journals or academic presses. They had 154 contributors.

Presidents like Grant and Eisenhower have risen in the ranking since those earlier surveys.
In recent surveys George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Lyndon Johnson moved up. Regan has moved down.
Joe Biden entered at #14 in 1 survey and #19 in another.

I computed a 10 pt. rating by combined scores from these two survies and rank ordered them assigning ratings from 1 to 10 like grading on the curve with a normal distribution looking for groupings in the scores and ended with more 5s and 6s and than 9s and 10s or 1's, which you would expect.

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

Score 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Number 3 2 5 7 6 5 6 3 3 5
No. Name Pty State Dates Rat-
ing
Previous
1 Washington, George F VA 1789-97 10 General
2 Adams, John F MA 1797-1801 7 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 6 VA Senator
6 Adams, John Quincy R/W MA 1825-29 7 MA Monroe's Secy of State
7 Jackson, Andrew D TN 1829-37 6 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 5 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 6 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 5 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 7 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 8 MA Senator
36 Johnson, Lyndon D TX 1963-69 8 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 6 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 7 AR Governor
43 Bush, George W. R TX 2001-08 3 TX Governor
44 Obama, Barack D IL 2009-2016 8 IL Senator
45 Trump, Donald R NY 2017-2020 1 Developer, Talk Show Host
46 Biden, Joe D DE 2021-2023 7 Delaware Senator, Vice President

Average: Republicans - 4.9, Democrats - 5.7

Historical rankings of presidents of the United States in Wikipedia lists rankings from a variety of organizations who survey presidential politics experts to come up with the rankings.

The top half - 23 presidents
Rank President Rating2022
Siena
2023
PGP
1 Abraham Lincoln 1021-93.9
2 Franklin D. Roosevelt 1012-90.8
3 George Washington 1033-90.3
4 Theodore Roosevelt 944-78.6
5 Thomas Jefferson 955-77.5
6 Harry S. Truman 8 76-75.3
7 Dwight D. Eisenhower 868-73.7
9Lyndon B. Johnson 8 89-72.9
8 Barack Obama 8 117-73.8
10 John F. Kennedy 8 910-68.4
11 James Madison 7 1011-67.2
12 Bill Clinton 7 1412-66.4
13Woodrow Wilson 7 1315-61.8
14 Joe Biden 7 1914-62.7
15 Ronald Reagan 7 1816-61.6
16 John Adams 7 1613-62.7
17 Grant 6 2117-60.9
18 Monroe 6 1218-60.2
19 GHW Bush 6 2019-58.5
21 John Quincey Adams 6 1721-55.4
21 Andrew Jackson 6 2321-54.7
22 Jimmy Carter 6 24 22-54.3
23 Taft 5 2523-51.7
45Donald Trump 1 4345-10.9
PGP - Presidential Greatness Project
American Presidents: Greatest and Worst | Siena College Research Institute
Siena 2022 published at Siena at Historical rankings of presidents of the United States | Wikipedia
Siena ranks: Monroe 12, Polk 15, Mckinley 22


Siena College rankings by 20 attributes:


Presidents since FDR
d=2022_Siena_College See Siena at Historical rankings of presidents of the United States | Wikipedia for a full list.
Overall is rank amongst all presidents. 1 is best.

Abbreviations
Bg: Background
  (family, education, experience)
Im: Imagination
Int: Integrity
IQ: Intelligence
L: Luck
WR: Willing to take risks
AC: Ability to compromise
EAb: Executive ability
LA: Leadership ability
CAb: Communication ability
  (speak, write)
OA: Overall ability
PL: Party leadership
RC: Relationship with Congress
CAp: Court appointments
HE: Handling of U.S. economy
EAp: Executive appointments
DA: Domestic accomplishments
FPA: Foreign policy accomplishments
AM: Avoid crucial mistakes
PV: Present overall view
  [the average of polled experts]
O: Overall rank
  [average of individual parameters]
President Party ATTRIBUTES ABILITIES ACCOMPLISHMENTS AVERAGE
Bg Im Int IQ L WR AC EAb LA CAb OA PL RC CAp HE EAp DA FPA AM PV O
Franklin D. Roosevelt Dem 1 2 14 10 6 2 2 2 1 2 2 1 2 2 1 2 2 1 4 2 1
Harry S. Truman Dem 28 13 8 19 11 9 13 8 8 14 10 12 15 12 7 9 8 3 7 5 7
Dwight D. Eisenhower Dem 11 20 4 16 4 18 5 5 5 18 7 9 6 5 6 12 7 7 3 6 6
John F. Kennedy Dem 12 5 27 12 27 10 8 14 7 3 12 16 12 13 9 4 14 12 15 10 9
Lyndon B. Johnson Dem 16 10 31 18 18 6 6 6 9 16 6 3 1 4 8 6 3 39 35 9 8
Richard Nixon Dem 17 21 44 17 36 12 21 25 27 26 25 23 32 26 22 30 16 14 41 36 28
Gerald Ford Dem 24 33 13 30 32 32 15 30 30 35 30 28 20 23 38 22 33 26 29 28 30
Jimmy Carter Dem 21 19 2 11 40 26 24 31 29 24 26 37 37 18 34 16 25 23 32 23 24
Ronald Reagan Dem 36 18 24 35 3 13 17 19 10 7 21 6 8 21 21 28 21 16 17 19 18
George H. W. Bush Dem 8 27 17 22 24 27 12 17 22 28 19 24 17 36 26 20 27 8 12 22 20
Bill Clinton Dem 19 12 40 9 10 17 4 16 16 9 11 13 18 7 5 14 12 18 33 13 14
George W. Bush Dem 20 35 34 41 23 22 32 37 35 37 37 21 22 34 39 37 34 41 38 35 35
Barack Obama Dem 18 7 6 7 14 21 10 11 15 6 8 19 27 9 10 8 10 19 9 8 11
Donald Trump Dem 45 43 45 45 17 23 44 44 43 43 43 32 42 43 41 45 43 45 43 44 43
Joe Biden Dem 15 22 12 27 34 24 9 21 25 30 23 25 31 10 14 10 19 21 16 20 19

See Siena College Research Institute Presidential Expert Poll 1982-2010 | Wikipedia for a full list.
More detail at American Presidents: Greatest and Worst | Siena College Research Institute

Trump and Biden
In the president scores above, where presidents were given a score from 1-10, Joe Biden was a 7 the same as Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton.
Trump was a 1.

Biden
Of the 20 attributes ranked
Biden was in the top half for all presidents for all except
Communication (verbal, written), Relationship with congress, and Luck

Biden was in the top quartile for all presidents for
Integrity, Ability to compromise, Court Appointments, and Executive Appointments,

In the top 1/3 for
Handling the economy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_rankings_of_presidents_of_the_United_States#Siena_College_Research_Institute,_5th_Presidential_Expert_Poll_1982_%E2%80%93_2010#2022_Siena_College Trump
Only Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan scored lower overall that Trump
Trump was above average in only
Luck and willingness to take risks
He was last in Integrity, IQ and Foreign Policy Accomplishments.


A 2021 Gallup poll asked 1,023 American adults the following question about the 10 most recent presidents: "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?"
asked 1,023 American adults the following question: "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?" Sorted by weighted average from worst to best
President Weighted
Average
Commun-
ication
Rank
Overall
Rank
John F. Kennedy 3.83 3 9
Barack Obama 3.456 11
Ronald Reagan 3.417 18
Bill clinton 3.08 9 14
George H. W. Bush 3.06 28 20
George W. Bush 2.91 37 35
Jimmy Carter 2.81 24 24
Donald Trump 2.30 43 45
Richard Nixon 2.14 26 28
See Historical rankings of United States Presidents at Wikipedia
 
Links:
2023 Survey of Scholars Finds Lincoln Remains America’s Greatest President
Lincoln was rated the greatest president with an average score of 93.9/100, followed by FDR (90.8), Washington (90.3), Theodore Roosevelt (78.6), Thomas Jefferson (77.5), Harry Truman (75.3), Obama (73.8), Dwight Eisenhower (73.7), Lyndon Johnson (72.9) and John F. Kennedy (68.4).
Biden was #15.

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
Siena 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
How would you rank the last 10 presidents (Trump-LBJ) in terms of public speaking skills? - Quora


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