Historians rank Trump ahead of only 3 other presidents

Donald Trump
(Image credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

C-SPAN has once again surveyed historians on how they rank every U.S. president, and this time, there's a new addition: former President Donald Trump.

C-SPAN on Wednesday released its fourth ranking of every American president, which in this case is based on a survey of 142 historians and presidential observers, and it judges each commander-in-chief by 10 leadership characteristics. The network has conducted such a presidential survey going back to 2000 after the end of each administration, so this was the first time Trump was eligible to be ranked.

The historians placed Trump at 41st on the list, ahead of only three other presidents: Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and, at the very bottom, James Buchanan. Trump came in at #32 in the category of public persuasion and #34 on economic management, but he came in very last place for "moral authority and administrative skills."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Abraham Lincoln remained at the top of the list, the position he's held in all four surveys, followed by George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. This was Obama's first time in the top 10, C-SPAN noted, after he previously ranked #12 in 2017. George W. Bush also climbed up to #29 from #33, while Bill Clinton fell to #19 from #15.

"What stands out to me here is the stability," historian Richard Norton Smith told C-SPAN. "It's interesting, particularly at the top and bottom of the list, how little significant movement there has been. By contrast, the living presidents seem much more likely to fluctuate. It's almost as if there was a boomerang effect where historians go overboard a bit when presidents leave office and they are at the nadir of their partisan reputation, and then they graduate to a less political status." See the full ranking at C-SPAN.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.