Historians rank presidents in C-SPAN survey; Trump scores 41st, Obama 10th

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RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO)—Historians put together a ranking of U.S. presidents based on qualities determined by C-SPAN.

More than 140 historians from across the country participated in the survey, which has been done by C-SPAN each year a presidential transition takes place.

This is the fourth presidential survey done by C-SPAN with the previous rankings taking place in 2000, 2009, and 2017.

The 10 methods used to determine the ranking are Public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of the times.

Historians rank each president on each quality on a scale of 1 to 10 with the higher number deemed “very effective.”

For the fourth consecutive time, historians ranked Abraham Lincoln as the best U.S. President. The 16th President oversaw the Civil War and signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law in the 1860s.

George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower rounded out the Top 5 in the 2021 ranking.

Donald Trump made his debut on this survey as this was the first ranking he was eligible for. The 45th president was ranked 41st by historians. The only three presidents who ranked below Trump were Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and James Buchanan.

Trump scored 41st in crisis management, 42nd in relations with congress, 43rd in international relations, and dead last in administrative skills and moral authority.

His highest rankings were in public persuasion and economic management, where he ranked 32nd and 34th, respectively.

Other recent presidents, though, scored higher.

Barack Obama scored 10th in the ranking, moving two spots up from his first placing in 2017.

Obama scored in the Top 10 in public persuasion, economic management, moral authority, and pursued equal justice for all.

His lowest ranking was relations with congress, where he scored 32nd.

George Bush ranked 29th among the 44 presidents. This is four spots above his 2017 ranking and seven spots above his 2009 ranking.

Bush scored out of the Top 20 on every measure except for pursued equal justice for all, where he ranked 18th.

His lowest rankings were in economic management and international relations, where he scored 35th and 38th, respectively.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton was ranked 19th, four spots lower than his 2017 ranking and five spots lower than his 2009 ranking. However, his 2021 score is two spots above his first ranking in 2000.

Buchanan, the 15th president, has consistently ranked as the worst president in American history.

Much like the top and bottom of the list, the ranking has mostly stayed intact over the years with little movement across each survey.

“What stands out to me here is the stability,” said presidential historian Richard Norton Smith. “It’s interesting, particularly at the top and bottom of the list, how little significant movement there has
been.”

However, historians note that recent presidents tend to fluctuate more than older ones.

Chester Arthur, the 21st president, had the largest jump in rankings from 2017 to 2021, moving from 35th to 30th place.

James Knox Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Clinton each had the biggest drops, each moving down four spots from 2017 to 2021.

For a full list of the rankings, visit here.

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