Rating the Presidents of the United States, 1789-2000: A Survey of Scholars in History, Political Science, and Law

November 16, 2000

James Lindgren, Steven G. Calabresi, Leonard A. Leo, C. David Smith

The reputations of presidents rise and fall. As experts on the presidency gain more perspective, their rankings of some presidents, such as John Kennedy, have fallen, while their impressions of others, such as Harry Truman, have risen. Even some presidents long dead have taken reputational stumbles. For example, the presidencies of James Madison, John Adams, and John Quincy Adams are no longer as highly regarded as they used to be.

This study reports results from the latest survey of 78 scholars on the presidency. Unlike most prior studies, this study surveyed experts on presidential history and politics from the fields of law and political science, as well as from history. Moreover, we explicitly balanced the group to be surveyed with approximately equal numbers of experts on the left and the right. Because political leanings can influence professional judgments, we think that these are the most politically unbiased estimates of Presidential reputation yet obtained for American presidents.

Presidential Survey