The expectations of and demands on the President of the United States continually change. Experts created a C-SPAN score based on 10 categories. They then ranked the Presidents on this list with a score of 1 to 43, with 1 being the best and 43 the worst.
The categories include:
- Political Persuasion
- Economic Management
- Crisis Leadership
- International Relations
- Moral Authority
- Congressional Relations
- Pursuit of Equal Justice for All
- Ability to Set an Agenda
- Administration Skills
- Overall Performance
Since this survey is only conducted after a new president takes office, President Donald Trump won’t show up until either 2021 or 2025 depending on when his term expires.
1. Abraham Lincoln – 16th president (Score 907)
Abraham Lincoln scored high in all 10 categories. As President, he abolished slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation and delivered the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.
2. George Washington – 1st president (Score 868)
While George Washington received excellent marks across the board, his highest was in Economic Management. As the first President of the US, he laid the foundation for our great country.
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt – 32nd president (Score 855)
Roosevelt received the highest score for International Relations and the lowest for Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. He served three terms as President and coined the phrase, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
4. Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt – 4th president (Score 807)
Roosevelt received good marks across the board, excluding Congressional Relations and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. He became President after McKinley’s assassination. While in office, he negotiated peacefully on foreign policy and led the Progressive Movement.
5. Dwight Eisenhower – 34th president (Score 745)
Eisenhower ranked well, except for Political Persuasion, Ability to Set an Agenda, and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. During WWII, he was a commanding general and as president, he initiated desegregation within schools and negotiated with the then Soviet Union during the nuclear arms race.
6. Harry S. Truman – 33rd president (Score 737)
Harry S. Truman scored highest in Crisis Leadership, International Relations, Pursuit of Equal Justice for All, and Performance. Following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman gave the green light to have atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima toward the end of WWII.
7. Thomas Jefferson – 3rd president (Score 727)
While Jefferson stayed even in all categories, he scored the highest in Congressional Relations and Ability to Set an Agenda. While President, he reduced the national debt and became the primary author of the Declaration of Independence.
8. John F. Kennedy – 35th president (Score 722)
Highly popular, people were overcome with grief after Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. He excelled in the Pursuit of Equal for Justice of All throughout his presidency as he continued to fight for civil rights, labor, and education.
9. Ronald Reagan – 40th president (Score 691)
Reagan excelled in Set an Agenda, Political Persuasion, and Performance. A one-time actor turned politician, he created jobs, enhanced economic growth, and bolstered the country’s national defense forces.
10. Lyndon B. Johnson – 36th president (Score 687)
After JFK’s assassination, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became President. His highest marks were in Congressional Relations, Administrative Skills, and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. One of his greatest achievements was the founding of Medicare.
11. Woodrow Wilson – 28th president (Score 683)
All around, Wilson received good marks, excluding Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. While in office, he enacted several reforms and lead the US into WWI by declaring war on Germany.
12. Barack Obama – 44th president (Score 669)
As the first black US President, Obama scored well, excluding International Relations and Congressional Relations. He’d hoped to improve on American race relations but several instances of cops arresting and killing black people impacted his efforts.
13. James Monroe – 5th president (Score 646)
Monroe proved strong in International Relations and Congressional Relations. But his presidency was plagued with problems regarding slavery.
14. James K. Polk – 11th president (Score 637)
Other than Moral Authority and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All, Polk ranked well. On the domestic front, he improved the US banking system, lowered tariffs, and was responsible for the Oregon Territory acquisition.
15. Bill Clinton – 42nd president (Score 634)
Indiscretions with White House aide Monica Lewinsky marred Clinton’s presidency. Even so, he ranked well in Economic Management and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. While in office, he passed the Family and Medical Leave Act.
16. William McKinley – 25th president (Score 627)
McKinley had good scores for Economic Management, Congressional Relations, and Administrative Skills. He helped guide the US through the Spanish-American War. Shortly before starting his second term, McKinley was assassinated.
17. James Madison – 4th president (Score 610)
Madison scored the best in Congressional Relations and Performance. He created the first draft of the Constitution, co-authored the Federalist Papers, and led the US through the 1812 War.
18. Andrew Jackson – 7th president (Score 609)
Jackson received high marks for Political Persuasion, Crisis Leadership, Ability to Set an Agenda, and Performance. He charged the Second Bank of the United States with unjust economic privilege and was credited for keeping the union intact.
19. John Adams – 2nd president (Score 604)
For Crisis Leadership, Economic Management, International Relations, and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All, Adams scored well. After refusing to accept a bribe from the French foreign minister to negotiate the XYZ Affair treaty, his popularity skyrocketed.
20. George H. W. Bush – 41st president (Score 596)
Bush’s strongest categories included International Relations and Crisis Leadership. When elected, the country was experiencing political change. Some people criticized his decision to liberate Kuwait while others considered him a strong international leader.
21. John Quincy Adams – 6th president (Score 590)
Adams earned great scores for Moral Authority and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. Although Jackson supporters vetoed all of Adam’s proposed projects, he worked tirelessly to abolish slavery and promote free speech.
22. Ulysses S. Grant – 18th president (Score 557)
Grant had mid-level scores across the board. Even in overseeing change to the Fifteenth Amendment that allowed black people to vote, he didn’t fare as well in the Pursuit of Equal Justice for All.
23. Grover Cleveland – 22nd and 24th president (Score 540)
Cleveland’s scores were mid-range for all categories, excluding Pursuit of Equal Justice for All, which got low marks. He was the only US President to serve in the White House for two nonconsecutive terms.
24. William H. Taft – 27th president (Score 528)
The only category Taft scored somewhat poorly in in was Political Persuasion. While President, he made bold moves, including the amendment of publicly elected senators and federal income taxes.
25. Gerald Ford – 38th president (Score 509)
Ford’s lowest scores were for Congressional Relations and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. He became President after Nixon’s resignation. Although he accomplished several good deeds, people didn’t trust him after he pardoned Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal.
26. Jimmy Carter – 39th president (Score 506)
Carter’s highest marks were in Moral Authority and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. He was left to clean up a struggling economy, which he did by reducing the budget deficit and creating jobs.
27. Calvin Coolidge – 30th president (Score 506)
Coolidge had mid-range scores for all categories. In office, he worked to correct the corruption that had occurred during Warren Harding’s time as President. But his economic policy changes played a role in the 1929 stock market crash.
28. Richard Nixon – 37th president (Score 486)
Despite getting a great score in International Relations, Nixon’s presidency was shrouded by controversy due to the Watergate scandal. Initially, he denied having any knowledge of the event but audio tapes proved otherwise, leading to his resignation as President.
29. James A. Garfield – 20th president (Score 481)
Garfield’s received good scores for Political Persuasion, Moral Authority, Ability to Set an Agenda, and Pursuit of Equal Justice for All. While Garfield served as a Civil War general and was highly respected by many, he was assassinated only 200 days after becoming President.
30. Benjamin Harrison – 23rd president (Score 462)
Harrison scored the lowest in the Pursuit of Equal Justice for All, Congressional Relations, and International Relations categories. While he signed the Sherman Antitrust Act, banning certain types of industrial monopolies, his support of protective tariffs put the country’s future at risk for financial turmoil.
31. Zachary Taylor – 12th president (Score 458)
Taylor scored mid-range in all categories. He might’ve been a military hero but because he owned slaves, his idea to allow certain states to make laws regarding slavery was controversial. This lowered his score in Pursuit of Equal Justice for All.
32. Rutherford B. Hayes – 19th president (Score 458)
Rutherford ranked the best in Performance and Economic Management. His main objective as president was to reunify the country following the Reconstruction era. But with weak support for African American equal rights, his score for Pursuit of Equal Justice for All was poor.
33. George W. Bush – 43rd president (Score 456)
Bush received the highest marks for Pursuit of Equal Justice for All, Crisis Leadership, and Congressional Relations. Shortly after becoming President, the 09/11 attacks occurred, leading him to create the Department of Homeland Security.
34. Martin Van Buren – 8th president (Score 450)
While Van Buren ranked good in International Relations and Administrative Skills, he didn’t fare as well in Economic Management. Soon after taking office, the nation experienced a financial crisis, which worsened by his plan to create an independent treasury and upholding Jackson’s economic policies.
35. Chester A. Arthur – 21st president (Score 446)
Arthur scored the highest in Pursuit of Equal Justice for All and lowest in Political Persuasion. He became President following Garfield’s assassination. His biggest accomplishments included the signing of the Pendleton Civil Service Act and the passing of the first major immigration law.
36. Herbert Hoover – 31st president (Score 416)
For Administration Skills, Hover scored great but for Economic Management, he received the lowest score possible. That was primarily due to the 1929 stock market crash that occurred shortly after he became president. Although this event should’ve fallen back on prior presidents, people blamed him.
37. Millard Fillmore – 13th president (Score 394)
Fillmore scored the highest in Crisis Leadership, Economic Management, and International Relations. Even then, they were a mere 34. Fillmore became president following Tayler’s death. He might’ve opposed slavery but compromising it to save the Union created a backlash from Northern states.
38. William H. Harrison – 9th president (Score 383)
Harrison scored relatively good in Political Persuasion but poorly in International Relations. Considering he died only 32 days after becoming President, he had little time to accomplish much. But he had a successful stint in the military and as the Governor of Indiana.
39. John Tyler – 10th president (Score 372)
All categories, excluding International Relations, had poor scores of 36 and higher. Tyler was the first Vice President to become President after his forerunner died. Considered a representative of the “common man,” the Whig Party disowned and tried to impeach him.
40. Warren G. Harding – 29th president (Score 360)
The best score Harding received was a 34 for Congressional Relations. He might’ve called for the General Accounting Office to analyze federal expenses but his practice of hiring questionable officials and the Teapot Dome scandal marred his presidency.