Ranking U.S. presidents is no easy task. The U.S. has given us a variety of presidents with unique careers and traits. Good or bad, most of them have caught our attention for one reason or another. Luckily, we have historians who can create some order. On February 17th, the results of the Presidential Historians Survey were released by C-SPAN television network. This survey, which has been held twice before in the years 2000 and 2009, gathered the opinions of 91 presidential historians who were asked to rank the 43 former US presidents based on 10 criteria.

Leadership is the common denominator among the selected attributes.

The 10 individual leadership characteristics were the following:

  • Public Persuasion
  • Crisis Leadership
  • Economic Management
  • Moral Authority
  • International Relations
  • Administrative Skills
  • Relations with Congress
  • Vision / Setting an Agenda
  • Pursued Equal Justice for All
  • Performance Within Context of Times

Historians rank Lincoln first

The results are in. Historians ranked President Abraham Lincoln first among U.S. presidents for the third consecutive time, followed by presidents George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These last two have also been the runners-up in all three surveys. The new name in this last survey was President Barack H. Obama.

His solid approval rating during his eight years in office secured him the 12th position in this ranking. Other renowned presidents like Eisenhower, JFK, Clinton, G. W. Bush, and Nixon finished 5th, 8th, 15th, 20th, and 33rd respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, presidents Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson and lastly James Buchanan landed the last positions of the ranking.

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Historians assess the results

Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University, commented on the results as follows: "Once again the big three are Lincoln, Washington and Fdr—as it should be. That Obama came in at number 12 his first time out is quite impressive."

Edna Greene Medford, a history professor at Howard University, had a different take on Obama's rating.

"One would have thought that former President Obama’s favorable rating when he left office would have translated into a higher ranking," she said. "But, of course, historians prefer to view the past from a distance, and only time will reveal his legacy."

How do you think President Donald Trump will be ranked? We will simply have to wait for the next survey results to arrive.