C-Span Presidential Historians Survey 2017


Presidential Historians tend to lean Left and when they rate recent presidents they tend to rate the more recent Left leaning presidents higher than the more conservative recent presidents. As they go further into history, this bias lessens a bit. With that in mind, I give you their list:


Abraham Lincoln
George Washington
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Harry S. Truman
Thomas Jefferson
John F. Kennedy
Ronald Reagan
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Woodrow Wilson
Barack Obama
James Monroe
James K. Polk
Bill Clinton
William McKinley Jr.
James Madison
Andrew Jackson
John Adams
George H. W. Bush
John Quincy Adams
Ulysses S. Grant
Grover Cleveland
William H. Taft
Gerald R. Ford Jr.
Jimmy Carter
Calvin Coolidge
Richard M. Nixon
James A. Garfield
Benjamin Harrison
Zachary Taylor
Rutherford B. Hayes
George W. Bush
Martin Van Buren
Chester Arthur
Herbert Hoover
Millard Fillmore
William Henry Harrison
John Tyler
Warren G. Harding
Franklin Pierce
Andrew Johnson
James Buchanan

C-SPAN’s academic advisors devised a survey in which participants used a one (“not effective”) to ten (“very effective”) scale to rate each president on ten qualities of presidential leadership: “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 His Times.”

Surveys were distributed to historians and other professional observers of the presidency, drawn from a database of C-SPAN’s programming, augmented by suggestions from the academic advisors. Ninety-one agreed to participate. Participants were guaranteed that individual survey results remain confidential. Survey responses were tabulated by averaging all responses in a given category for each president. Each of the ten categories was given equal weighting in arriving at a president’s total score.



I should also point out that as we get further away from the events of an administration a lot of the more volatile issues during an administration drop away (which could account for why Andrew Jackson scored as high as he did.)


Barack Obama at 12 :smiley:


Yea, probably a bit high for what will amount to be an administration whose major accomplishment (healthcare) may or may not last the test of time.


below Lyndon Johnson and Woodrow Wilson. :smiley:


From NBC News:

Barack Obama ranks as the 12th best leader in U.S. presidential history, according to a new survey of 91 presidential historians conducted by C-SPAN.

The panel placed the 44th president just below Woodrow Wilson and just above James Monroe.

It’s the third such survey by the organization, which began polling the panel of presidential experts in 2000. The poll ranks each U.S. president on a battery of issues, including “crisis leadership,” “moral authority,” “international relations” and “pursuing equal justice for all.”



I thought historians generally wait a period of time before evaluating a political figure, particularly a president.


I think the evaluation could change over time. Obama might even move up a little. As the article says:

Historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University says that Obama’s presidency, despite its weak points, may age well and notch an even higher ranking as time passes.

“There tends to be kind of an upward mobility, particularly if you are a president who had no major scandals,” he said, noting that presidents are also often judged in comparison to their immediate predecessors and successors. “If the Trump presidency is problematic, people may judge Obama even higher yet.”


That’s not a bad top 10 overall. LBJ is the most controversial I feel.


or he could move down. I suppose it will depend on the current and future presidents.
I am surprised they didn’t already have Trump in last place!


With Trump coming after him, Obama will probably go up…



Agreed. As premature as when Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.


Andrew Jackson is in 18th place? Surely they jest.


I see that George W. Bush is pretty far down the list.


I noticed that too. I am sure he is not pleased about that or his father or mother or brother.


But I doubt it bothers him too much. He is probably relieved that he is no longer president and can now enjoy life again.

I wonder where Nixon is on the list.






Other than Watergate, and a few other minor things, Nixon was a pretty good and effective president.


He is a recent president so he will probably move from the spot he is in now. However he will probably go down in history as the president who didn’t stop the US from going into recession and who started an avoidable war in Iraq that the country lost (I know he didn’t completely lose it, Obama did, but W will get blamed since he was the one who started it… history tends to be that way.)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.