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Scholars rank US presidents — and Trump's ranking isn't so great

Despite Trump's claims that he is a "genius" and the most popular president ever, his report card isn't excellent


Shira Tarlo
February 21, 2018 5:10AM (UTC)

The results are in.

In honor of Presidents' Day, The New York Times published a list that ranks every American president from best to worst. Despite Donald Trump's recurring claims that he is a "genius" and the most-popular president ever, his report card following his first year in office is far from excellent.

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How was the list derived? The Times surveyed 170 members of the American Political Science Association's Presidents and Executive Politics section. To briefly outline Trump's first year and foreshadow his possible place in history, the scholars voted along partisan lines.

Trump ranked No. 44 among Democrats, No. 43 among independents and No. 40 among Republicans. In other words, he ranks among the five worst presidents, according to scholars of every political stripe.

Since the Times' last survey in 2014, some president's stocks have climbed, while others have sunk. Four years later, Trump's Oval Office predecessor, Barack Obama, earned the largest boost, catapulting into the top 10. The biggest decline was for Andrew Jackson, who fell six spots. He was followed by Bill Clinton, who dropped five.

The new top 10 list is as follows: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The bottom 10 are Zachary Taylor, Herbert Hoover, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Warren G. Harding, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, William H. Harrison, James Buchanan and Donald Trump, who ranked last.
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While Trump's initial rating is historically low, several presidents have gone on to improve their public perception over time. Because Trump loves poll numbers, popularity contests and TV ratings, it is within the realm of possibility that he would change course to preserve his legacy. But all clues suggest no one can change Trump, and Trump doesn't want to change. It may always be Trump's way or the highway.

Trump once shared his rule for success on Twitter. He said, "What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate." Will the president take his own advice in order to climb out of last place? Only time will tell.

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Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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