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Lincoln Ranked Best President by Historians

George W. Bush ranks 36th out of 42; James Buchanan worst


Survey names Buchanan worst U.S. president (NBC Nightly News, Feb. 15, 2009) — James Buchanan, the 15th president of the United States, placed last in C-SPAN’s ranking of former commanders-in-chief. NBC’s Lester Holt reports. (00:31)

Feb. 15, 2009

WASHINGTON — Just days after Americans honored the 200th anniversary of his birth, 65 historians ranked Abraham Lincoln as the best U.S. president.

Former President George W. Bush, who left office last month, was ranked 36th out of the 42 men who had been chief executive by the end of 2008, according to a survey conducted by the cable channel C-SPAN.

File photo of former President George W. Bush (© J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
George W. Bush

Bush scored lowest in international relations, where he was ranked 41st, and in economic management, where he was ranked 40th. His highest ranking, 24th, was in the category of pursuing equal justice for all. He was ranked 25th in crisis leadership and vision and agenda setting.

In contrast, Lincoln was ranked in the top three in each of the 10 categories evaluated by participants. …

After Lincoln, the academics rated George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman as the best leaders overall. The same five received top spots in the 2000 survey, although Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt swapped spots this year.

Rated worst overall were James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison and Warren G. Harding.

The survey was conducted in December and January. Participants ranked each president on a scale of one, “not effective” to 10, “very effective,” on a list of 10 leadership qualities including relations with Congress, public persuasion and moral authority.


How Do the Presidents Rank?

C-SPAN 2009 Historians Presidential Survey

C-SPAN releases the results of its second Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, in which a cross-section of 65 presidential historians ranked the 42 former occupants of the White House on ten attributes of leadership.

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