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Friday, February 17, 2017

Ranking Presidents

As the nation marks Presidents Day 2017, C-SPAN is releasing the results of its third Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, in which a cross-section of 91 presidential historians ranked the 43 former occupants of the White House on ten attributes of leadership.

As in C-SPAN's first two surveys, released in 2000 and 2009, Abraham Lincoln receives top billing among the historians. George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt retain their top five status, while Dwight Eisenhower moves into the top five for the first time.

Former President Barack Obama enters the ranks for the first time in the #12 position. Notably, his leadership category ratings range from #3 for "Pursued Equal Justice for All," to #39 for "Relations with Congress." His predecessor, George W. Bush, has benefitted somewhat from the passing of years: His ranking at #33, is up three places from our 2009 survey. Dwight Eisenhower also advanced three spots since 2009, moving to the #5 position from #8 overall. Bill Clinton remains unchanged at #15.

The biggest presidential loser from our 2009 survey is Andrew Jackson, who was #13 in 2009, and who now stands at #18 overall.

Three presidents continue to hold the same bottom rankings as they did in 2000 and 2009: James Buchanan remains in last place at #43, preceded by Andrew Johnson (#42), and Franklin Pierce (#41).

Note that they rank even lower than William Henry Harrison, who served for only one month. The most-average U.S. president, as rated by our historian participants is Ulysses S. Grant, who ranks 22 out of 43 presidents.
A team of academic advisors has guided C-SPAN for each of its three surveys: Dr. Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University; Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Professor of History, Howard University; and Richard Norton Smith, presidential historian and biographer. The team approved the ten criteria, the same used in C-SPAN's 2000 and 2009 Surveys, consulted on the list of invited participants, and supervised the reporting of the results. Full rankings for each of the 43 presidents as well as shareable/social media graphics are available at .