Trump ranks as worst president in US history in new academics poll

The results are in from the US academics, and it does not bode well for the GOP nominee

Amelia Neath
Tuesday 20 February 2024 07:32 GMT
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Donald Trump isn’t just the first current or former president in US history to ever face criminal charges.

Now, he is making history in another way.

According to a new poll, Mr Trump has now been labelled as the worst president that the United States has ever seen.

The third instalment of the “Presidental Greatness Project”, by University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus and Coastal Carolina University political science professor Justin Vaughn, asked academics to rank each of the 45 people who have served as president all the way from George Washington to Joe Biden.

The survey is based on 154 responses from scholars across multiple disciplines, all of whom, in some way or another, engage in presidential politics through their work.

Previous surveys were released in 2015 and 2018, with respondents this year asked to rank all those who have served time as president on a scale 0-100 – with 0 being failure and 100 being great.

Mr Trump ranked in the very last place, scoring just 10.9/100 – the same spot he occupied in the previous survey (he was not included in the first survey, which was conducted during Barack Obama’s presidency).

He was also awarded “most polarising” president in the poll.

Meanwhile, Abraham Lincoln stood at the top of the presidential rankings, as the country’s greatest president, with an average score of 93.9/100.

Franklin D. Roosevelt came in at number two, followed by the nation’s first president, George Washington. Fourth place went to Theodore Roosevelt and fifth to Thomas Jefferson.

Respondents were able to disclose their own political leanings, which produced an interesting insight into how the presidents fared between differing parties.

Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Michigan (AP)

Unfortunately for Mr Trump, the Republican scholars did not help his low ranking, as he still came out in 41st place out of 45 among Republicans only. Among Democrat scholars, he placed 45th.

President Joe Biden meanwhile was ranked at number 13 by Democrats and at a low 30 by Republicans.

Mr Rottinghaus and Mr Vaughn said that Mr Biden’s ranking may have been influenced by him being viewed as Mr Trump’s greatest blocker.

“Biden’s most important achievements may be that he rescued the presidency from Trump, resumed a more traditional style of presidential leadership and is gearing up to keep the office out of his predecessor’s hands this fall,” they wrote in an article for the Los Angeles Times.

Mr Vaughn told Newsweek that the surveys “capture a snapshot in time,” showing how views can evolve about a certain leader.

While none of the academics have first-hand awareness of a Lincoln presidency, all respondents of course have a pretty good idea of what Mr Trump’s term – and now Mr Biden’s – delivered.

Current president Joe Biden ranked 14th among the 45 presidents (AFP via Getty Images)

Despite this, it is not impossible for presidents in recent memory to change rankings. For example, Mr Obama has risen nine places since the first survey, from 16th in 2015 to 7th place in 2024.

Likewise, Andrew Jackson, who served as president from 1829 to 1837, fell in the rankings by 12 places despite his time in office being almost 200 years ago.

The survey’s press release suggests that Jackson suffered greatly in the poll due to increased focus on his “dismal record on Native Americans”.

“Academics do lean left, but that hasn’t changed since our previous surveys. What these results suggest is not just an added emphasis on a president’s political affiliation, but also the emergence of a president’s fealty to political and institutional norms as a criterion for what makes a president “great” to the scholars who study them,” Mr Vaughn and Mr Rottinghaus told the Los Angeles Times.

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