One is “not effective” and ten is “very effective” on a scale of one to ten, 142 experts evaluated the presidents in 2021 in the following 10 categories: Updates to the original Presidential Historians Survey were published in 2009, 2017, and 2021. Because he is still in office, President Joe Biden was not included in the most current edition.
10. Barack Obama
44th president (Jan. 20, 2009-Jan. 20, 2017)
C-SPAN Overall rating: 664
This was the first time President Obama had placed in the top 10. Obama came in at number 12 in the 2017 update.
His best ratings for political persuasion, moral authority, and pursuing equitable justice for all went to the first Black president of the United States. In seeking equal justice for everyone, he came in third place overall, after only Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.
9. Ronald Reagan
40th president (Jan. 20, 1981-Jan. 20, 1989)
C-SPAN rating overall: 681
Reagan’s presidency had the longest stretch of unbroken peace without a recession or depression ever registered in American history. The politician-turned-actor scored best in the political persuasion and vision/ability to create an agenda categories, placing sixth overall in both.
8. John F. Kennedy
35th president (Jan. 20, 1961-Nov. 22, 1963)
C-SPAN Overall rating: 699
In four out of the top ten categories, JFK came in seventh. Kennedy is remembered for two events: the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, in addition to being killed in his third year. His efforts to ease the nuclear weapons situation may have helped him get his best political persuasion score, which placed him sixth overall in the category.
7. Thomas Jefferson
3rd president (March 4, 1801-March 4, 1809)
C-SPAN rating overall: 704
Jefferson has placed seventh in each of the four list iterations.
The major author of the Declaration of Independence is also credited with buying the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon in 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, which included 15 of the modern states. The areas where Jefferson performed best were vision/ability to plan ahead, performance in light of the times, and legislative relations, where he came in fifth overall.
6. Harry S. Truman
33rd president (April 12, 1945-Jan. 20, 1953)
C-SPAN rating overall: 713
Truman took over as president after FDR’s passing in 1945. His ratings in crisis leadership and international relations were the highest. The decision to unleash atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was taken by Truman.
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower
34th president (Jan. 20, 1953-Jan. 20, 1961)
C-SPAN rating overall: 734
The negotiation of the Korean War Armistice is attributed to Eisenhower. The former army general performed best in the categories of moral authority, where he placed fourth, and international relations, where he placed fifth.
4. Theodore Roosevelt
26th president (Sept. 14, 1901-March 4, 1909)
C-SPAN rating overall: 785
Roosevelt was renowned for his “big stick” foreign policy stance. He was elected president after President William McKinley was assassinated. Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering an end to the Russia-Japan War (1904-1905). His highest rankings were third in the area of political persuasion and fourth overall for vision/ability to create an agenda, respectively.
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
32nd president (March 4, 1933-April 12, 1945)
C-SPAN rating overall: 841
FDR, a three-term president, led the pack in both political persuasion and foreign policy. He is most remembered for guiding the country through World War II and implementing the New Deal in the wake of the Great Depression.
2. George Washington
1st president (April 30, 1789-March 4, 1797)
C-SPAN rating overall: 851
The performance within the context of the times and vision/ability to make a timetable gained the first president of America and commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary War his greatest grades. Additionally, Washington came in first place for legislative relations.
1. Abraham Lincoln
16th president (March 4, 1861-April 15, 1865)
C-SPAN rating overall: 897
Lincoln has consistently come out on top in all four iterations of the Presidential Historians Survey, demonstrating his popularity. Lincoln, who is credited with guiding America through the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in its history, came out on top in seven of the ten categories. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which stated that “all persons held as slaves” within the United States “are, and henceforth shall be free.”
His performance within the context of the times, vision/ability to create an agenda, and crisis leadership all received the highest grades from him.