American Presidents: Greatest and Worst

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Siena’s 7th Presidential Expert Poll 1982 – 2022

  • Top Five, Rushmore Plus 1 Remain Unchanged; FDR, Lincoln, Washington, Teddy Roosevelt & Jefferson
  • Worst Five Again – Andrew Johnson, Buchanan, Trump, Harding & Pierce
  • Biden Enters Ranking 19th, LBJ Moves into Top Ten, Obama 11th, Ike firmly 6th, Ronald Reagan rated 18th Best President

Press Release     Rankings, Charts and Tables     Graphics     Survey Instrument

Loudonville, NY – For the seventh time since its inception in 1982, the Siena College Research Institute’s (SCRI) Survey of U.S. Presidents finds that experts rank Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson as the United States’ top five chief executives. The 141 participating presidential scholars agree with their peers over the last 40 years naming the same five leaders as America’s finest. For the second time, scholars include Donald Trump along with Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Warren Harding and Franklin Pierce in the bottom five.

Joseph Biden enters the ranking after only a year in office at 19th rated highly on his ability to compromise (9th), court appointments (10th), executive appointments (10th) and integrity (12th) but lower on luck (34th), his relationship with Congress (31st) and his communication ability (30th). Lyndon Johnson is ranked 8th, entering the top 10 for the first time due to his work with Congress (1st) and court appointments (4th) but weighed down by foreign policy accomplishments (39th) and avoiding crucial mistakes (35th). Barack Obama is in 11th position, his highest ever, Dwight Eisenhower is once again rated the 6th best president and Ronald Reagan remains in the top twenty at 18th scoring highly on luck (3rd), party leadership (6th), communication (7th) and relationship with Congress (8th).

“The scholars that participate in this study have changed over 40 years but the top five – FDR, Abe, Washington, Teddy and Jefferson remain carved in granite year after year. In fact, this year a large plurality of 41% say that if we added onto Rushmore, it should be FDR’s face gracing the South Dakota hills,” according to Don Levy, SCRI’s director.

“Four of the worst rated presidents, Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Warren Harding and Franklin Pierce have been in the bottom five in each of the seven surveys. History appears to have spoken about those four presidents. Joined now by Donald Trump who gets higher scores for luck, willingness to take risks and party leadership, it is too early to say how history will ultimately rate Mr. Trump. Despite a third, a plurality, saying Trump contributed most of any president to weakening the office, a few would like to see Trump rather than FDR added to Rushmore,” according to Levy.

top ten presidents by survey year 2022

Scholars rate presidents on each of twenty categories that include attributes – background, imagination, integrity, intelligence, luck and willingness to take risks, abilities – compromising, executive ability, leadership, communication, and overall ability and accomplishments – party leadership, relationship with Congress, court appointments, handling the economy, executive appointments, domestic accomplishments, foreign policy accomplishments and avoiding mistakes. Theodore Roosevelt is rated highest on attributes, Lincoln tops the list on abilities and Franklin Roosevelt leads on accomplishments.

Bottom Five presidents by survey year

“While some have questioned the results of this survey, we note that participating scholars for over 40 years have been incredibly consistent in naming the top and most of the bottom presidents. Some presidents like Grant, Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson have risen and others like Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson have dropped as time took a longer look at their record. Some have argued that the rankings favor Democrats over Republicans but Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are in the top five, and Eisenhower is sixth. We don’t ask the historians and political scientists that respond to name their political ideology, just to painstakingly rate each of 45 individual presidents on 20 attributes, abilities and accomplishments,” Levy explained.

Survey Odds and Ends
• By 44-35%, scholars believe the office of President of the United States has become too powerful.
• 51% say they think the framers of the constitution would say that our system of checks and balances is working not very or not at all well.
• 63% given a choice would argue in favor of electing the President by a national popular vote rather than 17% that prefer the Electoral College.
• By 75-5%, scholars think it at least somewhat or very likely rather than not too or not at all likely that through 2032, the United States will continue to be a democratic republic.
• 69% believe it likely that by 2032 a woman will be elected president.

20 Presidential CategoriesTop and Bottom Two in Each

20 Presidential Categories

The Siena College Research Institute (SCRI) Survey of U.S. Presidents is based on responses from 141 presidential scholars, historians and political scientists that responded via mail or web to an invitation to participate. Respondents ranked each of 45 presidents on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on each of twenty presidential attributes, abilities and accomplishments. Overall rankings were computed by assigning equal weight to each of those twenty categories. For additional information about the survey visit www.siena.edu/sri/research or contact Don Levy at 518-783-2901, dlevy@siena.edu .

*Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and the 24th president. As such there are 45 unique individuals who have held the U.S. Presidency.

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