Historians are already forming a consensus over where Donald Trump ranks among U.S. presidents and it’s not at the bottom of the list.
But, it’s pretty close.
The C-SPAN survey of historians placed Trump at 41st out of 44, behind only three 19th-century presidents: Franklin Pierce (1853-57), Andrew Johnson (1865-69) and James Buchanan (1857-61). Trump even finished behind William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia just 32 days into his presidency.
C-SPAN previously conducted the survey in 2000, 2009 and 2017, with Abraham Lincoln ranking first in all of them. George Washington has finished second and Franklin D. Roosevelt third in each of the last three surveys. In 2000, however, Roosevelt took second and Washington third. Theodore Roosevelt has finished fourth in each survey.
C-SPAN said 142 historians and “professional observers of the presidency” participated in the survey ― a 50 percent increase since 2017 ― “reflecting new diversity in race, gender, age and philosophy.”
Rather than simply rank each president, the historians were asked to rate each one in 10 different leadership characteristics. Those ratings were then used to form a score for each.
Ronald Reagan scored the highest of presidents from the past half-century at 8th, with Barack Obama in 9th place. Bill Clinton finished in 19th place, George H.W. Bush at 21st, Jimmy Carter at 26th, Gerald Ford at 28th, George W. Bush at 29th and Richard M. Nixon at 31st.
“This year, people compared which is worse: Watergate or the Trump impeachment?” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University said in a news release. “The word ‘impeachment’ probably cost Nixon a few spots downward this year, and maybe Clinton, too.”
The biggest change over the years? Ulysses S. Grant, who has moved up to 20th after debuting at #33 in the 2000 survey.
“Grant is having his Hamilton moment,” Brinkley was quoted as saying.
See the full rankings here.
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