Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States
Historians (and sometimes political scientists) are surveyed and asked to give Presidents of the United States number ratings on their overall performance or on different aspects of their leadership.
Several different factors are considered in deciding what makes one a good or bad president. These include their character, their vision for the country, their relations with congress, their relations with foreign leaders (diplomacy), how they managed the economy, how they managed the military, and their overall political skill.
It is sometimes difficult to accurately rank a president because all of the presidents faced completely different challenges and lived in different times.
Historical opinions of U.S. presidents often change over time. For example, Harry Truman had very low approval ratings right after he left office, but many historians now consider him among the greatest presidents.
General Findings[change | change source]
Highly ranked[change | change source]
The following presidents are usually ranked highly:
- George Washington (the first president of the United States and helped the United States win the American Revolutionary War)
- John Adams (oversaw the Quasi-War)
- Thomas Jefferson (partly because of the Louisiana Purchase and for being the author of the Declaration of Independence)
- James Madison (led the United States through the War of 1812)
- James Monroe (expanded the United States and supported the founding of colonies in Africa for free African Americans)
- James K. Polk (President during the Mexican American War)
- Abraham Lincoln (led the United States through the American Civil War and ended slavery)
- Theodore Roosevelt (strengthened the United States Navy and had the Panama Canal built)
- Woodrow Wilson (President during World War I, supporting women's rights, and created the Federal Reserve)
- Franklin Roosevelt (led the country through the Great Depression by restoring the economy and President during World War II)
- Harry Truman (President during the end of World War II, the beginning of the Cold War and the integration of the Armed Forces)
- Dwight Eisenhower (President during the Cold War, created NASA, and expanded the United States highway system)
- John F. Kennedy (led the United States through the Cuban Missile Crisis and Cold War)
- Ronald Reagan (helped restore the American economy by lowering inflation and creating jobs, winning in a landslide in 1984 by winning 49 out of the 50 states, created better relations with Soviet Russia, helped end the creation of new nuclear weapons, and led the United States through the end of the Cold War)
- George H. W. Bush (led the United States through the Persian Gulf War and for formally ending the Cold War)
- Bill Clinton (helped recover the American economy by reducing taxes, created a healthcare plan for children, and for creating a waiting period to buy a handgun)
Mixed ratings[change | change source]
Some presidents have mixed ratings. For example, Andrew Jackson is considered to be a leader who stood for the common man, but at the same time historians criticize him because of the Indian Removal Act. Another example is Lyndon B. Johnson, who passed civil rights bills and President during the Great Society, but also escalated the Vietnam War.
Low in rankings[change | change source]
John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan are often considered to be among the worst because they failed to prevent the growth of the slavery which resulted in the Civil War.
Warren G. Harding and Ulysses Grant are often considered to be among the worst presidents because they both made the mistake of appointing their corrupt friends into high political offices, although recently Ulysses Grant has moved up in the rankings because of his efforts to give civil rights to African Americans.
Both historian polls and popular opinion polls consider George W. Bush among the worst U.S. presidents, although some would argue that it is too early to rank him because his term ended recently in 2009.