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Poor Andrew Johnson: Poll Ranks Worst (and Best) Presidents

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Every eight years Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., asks scholars to rank the best and worst presidents in American history, and every survey since 1982 has seen Franklin D. Roosevelt in the number one spot. This year is no exception.

But there's a shakeup at the number two position in the 2010 ranking. For the first time in 20 years, Abraham Lincoln has been supplanted as second-best by another Roosevelt: Teddy.

"Teddy Roosevelt had, more than any other president the 'right stuff', and tops the collective ranking of a cluster of personal qualities, including imagination, integrity, intelligence, luck, background, and being willing to take risks," according to the poll's authors. "Lincoln, according to the experts, demonstrated the greatest presidential abilities while FDR ranks first in overall accomplishments."

Rounding out the top five in the survey of 238 presidential scholars are Lincoln, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

"In nearly thirty years, the same five presidents have occupied the first five places with only slight shuffling. Despite decades of new research on former presidents and the accomplishments or lack thereof of the current chief executives, scholars display amazingly consistent results," according to Douglas Lonnstrom, professor of statistics at Siena and one of the study's directors.

As for the five lowest-ranked presidents, that list is fairly consistent as well, with one new addition. George W. Bush came in at 39th out 44 presidents. He's ranked just ahead of Andrew Johnson (pictured), James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin Pierce, all perennial bottom-dwellers.

The second Bush was rated "especially poorly in handling the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence."

The current president, Barack Obama, enters the survey in the 15th position.

The presidents are ranked according to personal attributes (background, imagination, integrity, intelligence, luck and willingness to take risks), five forms of ability (compromising, executive, leadership, communication and overall) and accomplishments (in economics, domestic and foreign affairs, choosing a staff, working with Congress and appointing Supreme Court justices).

Read the survey report here and see the complete rankings here.
Filed Under: White House

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George W. Bush who ran this country into the ground has come out ranked along with the bottom-dwellers. Obama, who is trying to dig us out of this mess, is ranked near the top. Let's all vote Democrats out and Republicans back in so they can finish this country off.

July 09 2010 at 2:32 PM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply

This group of scholars could use at least one libertarian mind to curb some of their obvious bias towards welfare-statism. Take for example Calvin Coolidge. He presided over the roaring 20s economic growth and maintained peace by simply governing like a genuine, constitutional president. Yet, why does he get no credit? Because he didn't write new laws? Because he didn't raise taxes or set up an social program? Because he didn't go out and pick a war with someone? Maybe he should be given higher consideration since nothing bad happened. Perhaps the reason why bad things happened during Lincoln and FDR years was because they simply were bad presidents.

July 09 2010 at 2:17 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

jimmy carter the worst, no brainer

July 09 2010 at 2:07 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

The general liberal bias of the group of "scholars" that comprised this ranking system of presidents is most evident. The most stellar example of this is ranking Bill Clinton several notches higher than Ronal Reagan--it is joke when you compare the accomplishments of Reagan to that of Clinton.

To me George Washington was the greatest President: He turned down being King, he set the precedent for the manner and character of the Presidency, something that today's politicians could greatly benefit, and most importantly he kept the country together at a very dilicate time. Though Lincoln deserves high praise, without Washington there would be no USA.

July 09 2010 at 1:16 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

Nope, can't buy it. Any poll that doesn't show Jimmie Carter below George W Bush has to be biased and slanted. Carter (and I voted for: "Hi there, I'm Jimmie Carter!") was the most horrible president of my lifetime - bar none including Nixon.

Then again, you did allow academia to do the analysis. That could be your problem.

July 08 2010 at 9:05 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply

The second Bush was rated "especially poorly in handling the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence."

Unless you are a republiecon in denial because when they are not denying Bush Jr did anything wrong......they are trying to get everyone else to stop bringing up one of the all time bottom feeder presidents of all time and a miserable failure.....Bush Jr.

So much for all the hate speech perpetuated by the repubs and right wingers about President Obama not being a good President......he is ranked 15th currently and most likely will be ranked higher at the end of his 8 years as President of the USA.

Oh yeah, Bush Jr?????? 39th.......even Nixon is ranked higher than Bush Jr now. I guess I was right last year when this same type of poll came out when I said that by 2010's poll, Bush Jr will be rated worse than the only President to resign.....Nixon. So, again this year I will say that President Obama will continue to move up the list as Bush Jr moves down.

I can hear disgruntled republiecons attempting to cry foul by saying that all the scholars were liberal and biased. Keep pointing the finger at everyone but yourselves republiecons.

July 07 2010 at 11:15 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

I understand how embarrassing this is. These scholars simply reaffirmed what most of us knew. Some of you may hate to admit it, but deep down, you know that George W. Bush deserves to be ranked among the bottom five. I expected Andrew Johnson to be ranked last. The south never really fully recovered from his incompetent handling of "Reconstruction".
Obama may or may not be re-elected. If not, he'll simply be remembered as the President who couldn't solve the myriad of problems inherited from George W. Bush. Ann Coulter was a guest on Fox News one night (just after Obama took office). She said that she was glad that a Democrat was President because the problems created by the Bush Administration were almost insurrmountable.

July 07 2010 at 8:31 PM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to thomcit's comment

Yes Coulter did say that about all of the problems Bush left behind. It was the one time she actually made some sense to me and admitted that Bush was a disaster. You see, this is also why repubs are just obstructing these days because they realize their only hope of getting back into the white house is if things go poorly for President Obama. So far, things are going much better than anyone could have expected....unless of course you are a republiecon still stuck in the anger from that bitter defeat of McCain and his soulmate.

July 07 2010 at 11:20 PM Report abuse -11 rate up rate down Reply

That's probably one of the most perceptive and true statements Ann Coulter has ever made. Not only did Obama inherit impossible situations, he also has gained a few of his own like the oil spill. Between the crises he is dealing with and the anti-Obama campaign waged against him by Republicans, I'd say that he has very little chance of being a 2-term president.

July 09 2010 at 1:24 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

Washington has to be number one, he was offered the role of king and he declined. As for FDR, he would have had to work hard to be worse, for a good deal of our problems today are because of him. Welfare was his biggest mistake.

July 07 2010 at 8:23 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to reddwarf57's comment

Without programs like Social Security, many of our retired citizens would be out on the street or in "poor farms". Pensions that they worked hard for all of their lives are shrinking and in some cases being eliminated. How many Americans are willing to take care of their aging parents? Social Security is not by any means perfect but for many retired Americans, it's all they have. Roosevelt should be commended for having the vision to start such a program.

July 09 2010 at 1:30 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply

Well, what do you expect from academics in New York. It explains FDR and Obama's postions. FDR's spending made the Great Depression last 15 years instead of about 5 years if he'd done nothing. Sounds familiar, huh, like Obama. It was 25 years before the stock market recovered. It took until 1986 for taxes to return to normal. Since Obama is modeling his recovery after FDRs, we can expect taxes to go up and stay there until 2060 or longer.
Obama will be a one term president. That'll be when Obama will realize that he's no FDR since he won't be elected for 4 terms.

July 07 2010 at 7:45 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to mcgowann's comment

No matter how you try to spin it, Bush Jr deserves his bottom 5 ranking. Blame it on New York academics, blame it on liberal media bias, blame it on anyone you want but the sooner you break out of your denial the sooner you have a chance to be honest about Bush Jr. What exactly is your idea of "normal" when it comes to taxes? Part of the reason we are so deep in debt now is directly attributed to Bush Jr waging 2 very very expensive wars while giving tax breaks to the wealthy. Republiecons will do anything and everything to keep their buddies and their businesses happy regardless of the consequences to the USA as a whole. That is because they do not care about anything/anyone except themselves. As long as they are comfortable they could care less about all others.

July 07 2010 at 11:34 PM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply

Exactly backwards. It was when FDR listened to the deficit hawks of his day and cut spending that the economy worsened again. And we are on the verge of making the same mistake all over again.

July 09 2010 at 12:33 PM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply

Give it a little time. History will show President Obama will be among the lowest five.

July 07 2010 at 5:54 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to's comment

Actually, at the end of his 8 years of service and dedication to our is more than likely President Obama could end up around 10th. I sure hope you are not writing any Nostradamus-like quatranes regarding your predictions. Sadly for you, my prediction about Bush Jr continuing to fall lower on this list as more info comes out and time passes by was spot on. I predicted that he would be rated worse than Nixon by this year and sure enough......Bush Jr is even worse than the guy who had to resign. Now that is pretty sad. I also said President Obama would debut on the list in the top 20. Spot on again. Any predictions for November?

July 07 2010 at 11:40 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
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or show that he has accomplished more than a lot of presidents in just 14 months in office. He pushed and pulled and got things done.. You can not say he is a do nothing president. Give it time America will be in the best shape its been even before the economic melt down

July 09 2010 at 10:47 AM Report abuse -9 rate up rate down Reply

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