Historians’ Presidential Rankings Released And Trump Will Tantrum


From 2017 to 2021, Donald Trump spent his days in the White House (and on the golf course) tweeting about his ranking as president, always giving himself an A and referring to himself as the greatest president in history, with the best economy, the best standard of living, the best people, the best words…all of it, according to him, unprecedented in presidential history. A group of historians, however, disagree.

Every year, C-Span releases a list of presidents ranked from best to worst using a set of characteristics they believe makes each president successful. Once the score on each of these characteristics is calculated, a president receives a total ranking. For Trump, it’s far from the “best in history” ranking he’d give himself. In fact, he’s currently ranked fourth from last, followed only by Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, whose incompetence led to the Civil War, and Andrew Johnson, who was also impeached. Even Richard Nixon, the disgraced president forced out of office, ranked 10 spots higher than Trump.

‘C-SPAN’s original team of academic advisers devised a survey in which participants used a 1 (“not effective”) to 10 (“very effective”) scale to rate each president on 10 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 the Times. In 2009, 2017 and 2021, following a change in administrations, subsequent surveys have been conducted using these same 10 characteristics.’


Trump was ranked last in moral authority and administrative skills by the presidential historians, second from last in international relations third from last in relations with Congress and performance within context of the times, fourth from last in crisis leadership, fifth from last in pursuing equal justice for all, and ninth from last in vision/setting an agenda. The one area in which Trump considered himself even more “the best in history” is in economic management, but he managed to score only eleventh from last in that characteristic. What has to be even more rankling for the ex-president Trump, however, is that Obama ranked ninth best in economic management despite Trump’s claims that Obama ruined the economy (he didn’t) and tenth best overall as the best president in history, only beneath some of the most historically significant leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.


The committee of historians is led by an advisory team that includes professors from Rice University and Howard University,  a presidential biographer, and the chairwoman of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. The committee reconvenes each year and rankings can change over time (President Obama moved up two spots this year).

‘Surveys are distributed to historians, professors and other professional observers of the presidency who are drawn from databases of C-SPAN programming, research in the field and suggestions from our academic advisers. Each cycle, we reach out to past participants and add new names to the list to maintain a well-rounded list of invited participants. This year, 142 completed the survey, up from 91 in 2017.’