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