Just in time for the country’s July 4th celebration, C-SPAN published its Presidential Historian Survey 2021 that reveals the best and worst presidents in U.S. History. C-SPAN has been publishing this survey since 2000. On their website they explain their methodology: “Surveys are distributed to historians, professors and other professional observers of the presidency who are drawn from databases of C-SPAN programming, research in the field and suggestions from our academic advisers.” The advisory team for 2021 included: Douglas Brinkley (Professor of History, Rice University); Edna Medford (Professor of History, Howard University); Richard Smith (Presidential biographer); and Amity Shlaes (Chariman of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation).
It is important to note that this is not a political survey (sorry GOP and Democratic Party!), nor is it a popularity contest. The participants, who are historians and presidential scholars, do not rank the presidents themselves, but rather make assessments of ten leadership qualities (each quality is ranked on a scale of 1, “not effective” to 10 “very effective”): (1) public persuasion, (2) crisis leadership, (3) economic management, (4) moral authority, (5) international relations, (6) administrative skills, (7) relations with Congress, (8) vision/setting an agenda, (9) pursuit of equal justice for all and (10) performance within the context of the times. Each of the ten categories is given equal weighting to arrive at the total score for each president. The participants’ responses are tabulated by averaging all responses for each category for each president.
According to historians and presidential experts, the top ten presidents are:
1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. Theodore Roosevelt
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower
6. Harry S. Truman
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. John F. Kennedy
9. Ronald Reagan
10. Barack Obama
According to historians and presidential experts, the worst presidents (the five listed at the bottom of the list) are:
40. William Henry Harrison
41. Donald J. Trump
42. Franklin Pierce
43. Andrew Johnson
44. James Buchanan
Interestingly, since 2009, the ranking of the top four presidents has not changed, suggesting that historians and presidential experts, regardless of different perspectives or changing public attitudes, strongly believe that Lincoln, Washington, FDR, and Teddy Roosevelt were the country’s best presidents.
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For further reading: http://www.c-span.org/presidentsurvey2021/?page=overall