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Bob B.
2005-Feb-21, 07:25 PM
According to an AP article, two recent poles were taken asking American adults to rate the greatest presidents of all time. Here are the top finishers in each poll:

Poll by Washington College

1. Abraham Lincoln
2. Ronald Reagan
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt
4. John F. Kennedy
5. Bill Clinton
6. George W. Bush
7. George Washington

Poll by CNN-USA Today

1. Ronald Reagan
2. Bill Clinton
3. Abraham Lincoln
4. Franklin D. Roosevelt
5. John F. Kennedy
6. George Washington

:-? Hmm... George Bush ahead of George Washington in one poll, and Bill Clinton ahead of Abraham Lincoln in the other. I have to say I find these results rather unusual. My own personal opinion: I think Americans need a refresher course on their history.

PyroFreak
2005-Feb-21, 07:30 PM
Agreed, Bob.

W.F. Tomba
2005-Feb-21, 07:37 PM
Well, it may be natural for people to overrate presidents who are still alive or still in office. Presidents these days are good at surrounding themselves with a glow of publicity, which takes a long time to fade. And of course, current political allegiances encourage people to overrate "their man." On the other hand, Americans are famously history-challenged, so what you may have in each of these polls is just a list of all the presidents most people have heard of! Did the polls also ask how many presidents people knew about? Can you give us a link?

Tobin Dax
2005-Feb-21, 07:38 PM
Not George Bush, George *W* Bush. I really don't think either are in the top 6-7 presidents, personally. Neither should be above Washington, IMO. I really find it interesting that recent presidents are found to be on par with the greats of the past. Reagan was good, and Clinton wasn't bad either, but against FDR, Lincoln, JFK, and Washington? Wow. The public must think that recent presidents have caused great things to happen, though I can't think of anything approaching the likes of the Civil, Revolutionary, or Second World Wars.

farmerjumperdon
2005-Feb-21, 07:42 PM
For a quick read that will provide an understanding on how a sampling of Americans could generate these results, get a copy of The Closing of the American Mind. I'm kidding about the quick read part though.

Candy
2005-Feb-21, 07:43 PM
Bill Clinton? :-?

I'm gonna have to VETO those polls.

Tensor
2005-Feb-21, 07:49 PM
Bill Clinton? :-?

I'm gonna have to VETO those polls.

Must have had lot of White House interns responding to the poll. 8)

kucharek
2005-Feb-21, 07:53 PM
It's very difficult to rate people over such a timespan. So much has changed that comparing Washington with Bush is a little bit like comparing apples with oranges.

Harald

Bob B.
2005-Feb-21, 07:53 PM
Can you give us a link?
I got the story from my newspaper so I don't have an Internet link. Sorry.

Herodotus
2005-Feb-21, 07:55 PM
This is a list I did a few years ago, I tried to set up a some criterion I thought would help ranking them. My criterion, on a 1-10 scale, was what was their Impact, did they lead their era's agenda, what kind of foresight or Vision, their Political skills, Foreign policy, Domestic policy, were they above being Partisan, respect for the Constitution, whether they had any Ideals and what kind of Realism did they have. Then just total them up and see what I came up with. Any dissent with the method and results are welcome. :)


name, Impact, Leader, Vision, Political, Foreign, Domestic, Partisan, Const., Ideals, Realism, Total
Roosevelt, Theodore 10 10 10 10 5 8 7 7 7 8 82
Lincoln, Abraham 10 10 10 10 7 10 8 0 5 10 80
Roosevelt, Franklin D. 10 10 10 10 10 10 4 1 5 10 80
Eisenhower, Dwight D. 10 8 10 7 8 8 8 8 6 6 79
Washington, George 10 10 6 5 3 5 8 10 10 7 74
Jefferson, Thomas 10 7 10 7 6 5 5 7 10 6 73
Kenneday, John F. 8 7 7 7 8 10 5 6 7 8 73
Truman, Harry S. 8 5 8 4 10 8 2 10 10 8 73
Polk, James K. 10 10 10 10 9 5 0 5 3 10 72
Johnson, Lyndon B. 8 8 5 8 7 9 5 5 5 8 68
Reagan, Ronald 10 9 7 10 8 6 1 5 7 5 68
Jackson, Andrew 10 10 5 10 5 8 0 3 6 10 67
Wilson, Woodrow 10 7 10 4 9 4 0 10 10 0 64
Clinton, Bill 7 6 7 6 4 8 7 6 6 6 63
McKinley, William 7 6 6 6 8 5 6 8 6 4 62
Madison, James 5 6 7 6 3 5 5 9 8 6 60
Adams, John Quincy 3 4 10 0 6 5 10 10 10 1 59
Monroe, James 5 5 5 6 5 5 5 9 7 6 58
Adams, John 6 3 7 2 7 3 3 8 10 8 57
Arthur, Chester A. 6 5 5 2 4 8 8 6 5 7 56
Tyler, John 10 2 4 1 6 7 8 10 4 4 56
Van Buren, Martin 5 4 4 10 5 5 0 8 5 10 56
Coolidge, Calvin 4 5 5 5 4 4 5 7 7 5 51
Garfield, James 2 4 6 6 2 5 7 5 8 4 49
Ford, Gearld 3 3 5 5 4 4 6 8 5 5 48
Nixon, Richard M. 10 5 5 5 7 7 2 0 1 6 48
Cleveland, Grover 5 5 5 4 4 1 5 5 5 4 43
Johnson, Andrew 6 1 1 0 7 3 1 10 8 6 43
Carter, Jimmy 3 3 6 1 6 1 2 6 7 5 40
Taylor, Zacharey 3 2 0 3 4 3 4 8 5 8 40
Taft, William Howard 2 1 2 4 4 4 3 7 5 5 37
Harrison, Benjiman 1 2 1 4 5 2 5 5 3 5 33
Hayes, Rutherford B. 5 3 2 2 4 1 5 1 3 4 30
Bush, George 3 3 1 2 2 2 2 8 3 3 29
Hoover, Herbert 5 3 2 4 0 0 4 4 7 0 29
Fillmore, Millard 2 2 0 1 4 1 2 4 4 6 26
Pierce, Franklin 1 0 0 0 5 0 8 6 4 1 25
Harding, Warren G. 2 0 0 0 7 2 3 3 3 2 22
Buchanan, James 2 0 0 0 4 0 5 3 1 2 17
Grant, Ulysses 1 0 1 0 3 1 1 2 1 1 11
Harrison, William Henry 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2
239 196 207 193 220 189 176 245 239 226
Impact Leader Vision Political Foreign Domestic Partisan Const. Ideals Realism

Bob B.
2005-Feb-21, 08:00 PM
Herodotus, any rating system like this is going to be debatable but I like your choices far better than polls. I agree that Theodore Roosevelt was one of the glaring absences on the other lists.

jofg
2005-Feb-21, 08:03 PM
Interesting list / approach. Off-hand, I would think most people would agree with the top dozen or so (altough I'm sure the order would be switched on a number of them). One that seems very low is Grant - I know his term was full of scandals, but I would have expected his ratings to be higher in many of your categories.

Wally
2005-Feb-21, 08:06 PM
Can you give us a link?
I got the story from my newspaper so I don't have an Internet link. Sorry.

what's this "newspaper" thing of which you speak???

Candy
2005-Feb-21, 08:07 PM
Herodotus, where's George W. Bush? :(

W.F. Tomba
2005-Feb-21, 08:13 PM
This is a list I did a few years ago, I tried to set up a some criterion I thought would help ranking them. My criterion, on a 1-10 scale, was what was their Impact, did they lead their era's agenda, what kind of foresight or Vision, their Political skills, Foreign policy, Domestic policy, were they above being Partisan, respect for the Constitution, whether they had any Ideals and what kind of Realism did they have. Then just total them up and see what I came up with. Any dissent with the method and results are welcome. :)
Well, you obviously used a 0-10 scale, not a 1-10 scale. And though I realize that he died one month after his inauguration, does that really warrant giving Harrison a zero in all but one category? In other words, do things like Vision, Realism, and Political Skills only count to the extent that they are expressed during a president's term of office?

W.F. Tomba
2005-Feb-21, 08:15 PM
Herodotus, where's George W. Bush? :(
Perhaps it would be wise to avoid rating current presidents if we don't want this to turn into a political debate.

Grendl
2005-Feb-21, 08:23 PM
W.F Tomba:
On the other hand, Americans are famously history-challenged, so what you may have in each of these polls is just a list of all the presidents most people have heard of! Did the polls also ask how many presidents people knew about? Can you give us a link?
That's the understatement of the year! Here's an article about the polls Bob posted:


The poll done for the college looked at how much the public knows about Washington and found that 46 percent knew he led the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Two-thirds knew his wife's name, Martha, and that he lived at Mt. Vernon, his estate on the Potomac River in http://www.freep.com/news/nw/prez-bar121e_20050221.htmVirginia.
Here's another version of the story: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=517181&page=2

I can't imagine how anyone could rate Clinton or Bush as great presidents, especially Bush since he's not done yet. I'm not fond of lists and polls like these. This site http://www.retropoll.org/ has some methods that clearly show how people contradict themselves when asked more specific questions. I like your method, Herodotus, and agree the Teddy Roosevelt is a sore omission in these polls.

Doodler
2005-Feb-21, 08:26 PM
Buchanan, James 2 0 0 0 4 0 5 3 1 2 17

Once again, no love for my namesake. As if anyone could have prevented the Civil War. By the time he was elected, collapse was a foregone conclusion, the United States had evolved into two VERY distinct entities and neither side particularly cared what the other thought. He came in right at the flashpoint and attempted compromise when forces involved were not interested. All that could be done to preserve the United States at that point was to accept the inevitable.

aurora
2005-Feb-21, 08:31 PM
In college I took a US History course which was really history of Presidents. I thought the emphasis was all wrong. Of course, being a science geek, I thought that major scientific discoveries were more important than what kind of dog the President had. [-(

So, although I agree with some of the earlier comments that Americans in general need to better understand their history, I'd go one step further and say that history classes should not focus solely on the political aspect.

Bob B.
2005-Feb-21, 08:55 PM
Herodotus, where's George W. Bush? :(
Perhaps it would be wise to avoid rating current presidents if we don't want this to turn into a political debate.
Go point, Tomba. I started this thread thinking it would be an interesting history topic; it was never my intent to make it a political discussion. Keeping the current administration out of it is probably a good idea.

SeanF
2005-Feb-21, 09:12 PM
Herodotus, where's George W. Bush? :(
Perhaps it would be wise to avoid rating current presidents if we don't want this to turn into a political debate.
Go point, Tomba. I started this thread thinking it would be an interesting history topic; it was never my intent to make it a political discussion. Keeping the current administration out of it is probably a good idea.
Hmm. I'm not sure why it would be that W can't be discussed non-politically but Clinton and Reagan can . . . :-?

Herodotus
2005-Feb-21, 09:28 PM
Herodotus, any rating system like this is going to be debatable but I like your choices far better than polls. I agree that Theodore Roosevelt was one of the glaring absences on the other lists.
Why thank you. :D Yes, TR was a big omission.


Interesting list / approach. Off-hand, I would think most people would agree with the top dozen or so (altough I'm sure the order would be switched on a number of them). One that seems very low is Grant - I know his term was full of scandals, but I would have expected his ratings to be higher in many of your categories.

Grant is one of my favorite persons and my admiration knows no bounds for his leadership and character during the Civil War, however, where as in the war he had clear goals and decisive leadership in his administration. There really were no policy goals at home or abroad, he surround himself with sycophants who took advantage of him and enriched themselves as the Whiskey Ring proved. He just stumbled around for eight years with no purpose.


Herodotus, where's George W. Bush? :(

His term is still going so it is tough to say when were are just past half-time with him. And as W.F. Tomba pointed out it could get partsian.

[/quote]
Well, you obviously used a 0-10 scale, not a 1-10 scale. And though I realize that he died one month after his inauguration, does that really warrant giving Harrison a zero in all but one category? In other words, do things like Vision, Realism, and Political Skills only count to the extent that they are expressed during a president's term of office?[/quote] :oops:
Thanks, thats right it is 0-10. Yep, I was harsh on Harrison, it was more a case of filling in the numbers for him. I ought to just remove him from it.



Buchanan, James 2 0 0 0 4 0 5 3 1 2 17

Once again, no love for my namesake. As if anyone could have prevented the Civil War. By the time he was elected, collapse was a foregone conclusion, the United States had evolved into two VERY distinct entities and neither side particularly cared what the other thought. He came in right at the flashpoint and attempted compromise when forces involved were not interested. All that could be done to preserve the United States at that point was to accept the inevitable.

Yes, he was president at a bad time, however, it is a personal thing about him. He spent his whole life cynically maneuvering his way to the presidency, he back-stabbed Polk on the Oregon territory border deal with Britain, by trying to make it look like Polk had reneged on his campaign promise for a more northern borderline and Buchanan wanted to appear to the votes as reluctant to go along with it and didn't want to compromise. Henry Clay also used to routinely take him apart on floor of the Senate during debates. However, on the good side he did try as President to push through the Senate a good treaty with Mexico that would have gone far to prevent the French incursion of the 1860's.
[edited for a typo or two]

TriangleMan
2005-Feb-21, 09:31 PM
[2 cents] While I will not claim to have in-depth knowledge of US Presidents I'm surprised the lists in the OP did not have Thomas Jefferson given the amount of work that he did. [/2 cents]

Bob B.
2005-Feb-21, 09:37 PM
Hmm. I'm not sure why it would be that W can't be discussed non-politically but Clinton and Reagan can . . . :-?
The Clinton and Reagan presidencies are past history, while W's is still ongoing with many emotional issues as of yet undecided. I personally feel it is best to not go there, but that's just my opinion for what it's worth. Besides, I don't now how we can evaluate a presidency that in unfinished.

Doodler
2005-Feb-21, 09:37 PM
Buchanan, James 2 0 0 0 4 0 5 3 1 2 17

Once again, no love for my namesake. As if anyone could have prevented the Civil War. By the time he was elected, collapse was a foregone conclusion, the United States had evolved into two VERY distinct entities and neither side particularly cared what the other thought. He came in right at the flashpoint and attempted compromise when forces involved were not interested. All that could be done to preserve the United States at that point was to accept the inevitable.

Yes, he was president at a bad time, however, it is a personal thing about him. He spent his whole life cynically maneuvering his way to the presidency, he back-stabbed Polk on the Oregon territory border deal with Britain, by trying to make it look like Polk had reneged on his campaign promise for a more northern borderline and Buchanan wanted to appear to the votes as reluctant to go along with it and didn't want to compromise. Henry Clay also used to routinely take him apart on floor of the Senate during debates. However, on the good side he did try as President to push through the Senate a good treaty with Mexico that would have gone far to prevent the French incursion of the 1860's.
[edited for a typo or two]

Heehee, sounds like a typical politician to me. Still, he managed to get himself elected and maneuvered the system well enough, so he wasn't a complete incompetent, which is how I see a lot of people characterize him.

Bob B.
2005-Feb-21, 10:23 PM
Herodotus,

I'm from Ohio, which has had more presidents than any other state, but our presidents are always rated near the bottom in these types of lists. I see you rated them no differently:

15. William McKinley
24. James Garfield
31. William Howard Taft
32. Benjamin Harrison
33. Rutherford B. Hayes
38. Warren G. Harding
40. Ulysses S. Grant
41. William Henry Harrison*

I agree that McKinley was probably the best of the lot (he got himself re-elected at least). Garfield might have been OK had he not been shot in the back after only four months in office. The others all had pretty humdrum presidencies, if not down right bad.

BTW, Ohio also leads in presidents assassinated (McKinley, Garfield) and presidents who died in office (McKinley, Garfield, Harding, W. H. Harrison). Kind of makes you not want to be president if you're from Ohio.

* Born in Indiana but lived in Ohio.

edited spelling

Candy
2005-Feb-22, 04:29 AM
Hmm. I'm not sure why it would be that W can't be discussed non-politically but Clinton and Reagan can . . . :-?
The Clinton and Reagan presidencies are past history, while W's is still ongoing with many emotional issues as of yet undecided. I personally feel it is best to not go there, but that's just my opinion for what it's worth. Besides, I don't now how we can evaluate a presidency that in unfinished.
We got through same sex marriage very civilized, and the BA was proud of us. I think George W. Bush deserves a place in 'history'. But I will abide by your rules, since it was your OP. :)

jrkeller
2005-Feb-22, 06:32 AM
Herodotus,

I can remember presidents since LBJ. According to criteria, I agree with your rankings, except I think Reagan should be higher than LBJ.

You gave Reagan only a 1 for Partisan, yet he was on good terms with many leading Democrats of the day and got many bills passed even with a Democrat congress.

I think the first Bush was a better president than Jimmy Carter, but using your scaling system I can't disagree with that outcome.

I think Ford deserves more on the Ideals rating. Pardoning Nixon and getting the nation over Watergate was good and that act probably cost him the 1976 election. He won a Profiles in Courage Award for that action.

BTW, how you come up with the ratings for the presidents? There's plenty of info for the recent presidents, but not much for the early ones.

pghnative
2005-Feb-22, 02:43 PM
Hmm. I'm not sure why it would be that W can't be discussed non-politically but Clinton and Reagan can . . . :-?
The Clinton and Reagan presidencies are past history, while W's is still ongoing with many emotional issues as of yet undecided. I personally feel it is best to not go there, but that's just my opinion for what it's worth. Besides, I don't now how we can evaluate a presidency that in unfinished.
You could even make an argument that it's hard to evaluate a presidency that was only finished a few years ago. Not sure what the right timing is, but probably at least a decade.

gethen
2005-Feb-22, 02:51 PM
A political analyst on CNN yesterday said that he thinks it's obvious that Americans tend to rate the Presidents that are their contemporaries or that they voted for too highly. As noted above, this is most likely due to the fact that they are generally unfamiliar with those that preceded their own births. Herodotus' list is certainly more realistic.

Herodotus
2005-Feb-22, 07:10 PM
Herodotus,

BTW, Ohio also leads in presidents assassinated (McKinley, Garfield) and presidents who died in office (McKinley, Garfield, Harding, W. H. Harrison). Kind of makes you not want to be president if you're from Ohio.

* Born in Indiana but lived in Ohio.

edited spelling

I think Ike may have done Robert Taft a favor by getting the Republican nomination in 1952. :)


Herodotus,

I can remember presidents since LBJ. According to criteria, I agree with your rankings, except I think Reagan should be higher than LBJ.

You gave Reagan only a 1 for Partisan, yet he was on good terms with many leading Democrats of the day and got many bills passed even with a Democrat congress.


Why thank you. Yes, I do think Reagan was more bi-partisan than I gave him credit for so he should go up to a five. I think I knocked him down for some of his court nominations, but he was willing to work with the House and Senate Democrats and Reagan was a very good politican.




I think Ford deserves more on the Ideals rating. Pardoning Nixon and getting the nation over Watergate was good and that act probably cost him the 1976 election. He won a Profiles in Courage Award for that action.

BTW, how you come up with the ratings for the presidents? There's plenty of info for the recent presidents, but not much for the early ones.

I will revise Ford, since his pardon was, like you said, a decision that did cost him the election, and nearly the nomination to Reagan in the primary.
As for coming up with the rankings, I have done some college history teaching, including US history so I had to do a lot reading on the subject and that lead me to revising my opinions on some (Polk for example) and then I wanted to just come up with a list of who I thought did well and those who didn't . :D


A political analyst on CNN yesterday said that he thinks it's obvious that Americans tend to rate the Presidents that are their contemporaries or that they voted for too highly. As noted above, this is most likely due to the fact that they are generally unfamiliar with those that preceded their own births.

I thought that too when I saw the list and most are either recent or on money. :lol:


Herodotus' list is certainly more realistic.
:oops: , thank you.

Gillianren
2005-Feb-22, 11:01 PM
I refuse to rank any President who is still alive. this means Reagan just became one I could rank, but both Bushes and Clinton--not to mention Ford and Carter are out.

I do, however, think Jimmy Carter is the best EX-President this country has ever had, w/the possible exceptions of John Quincy Adams and . . . oh, man. was it Taft who went into the Supreme Court after? I never can remember. anyway, they all did things after, and more than writing their memoirs or lecturing.

Jefferson's omission always annoys me. it's probably the Sally Hemings thing. I will also admit that most of what he did that we remember him for wasn't while he was President, and that he himself considered it the least of his accomplishments.

I think Kennedy tends to get overrated because he was assassinated. most of the great legislation he designed only got passed after he died. this, I think is where LBJ loses. and the Vietnam thing. he was a great domestic President, but a lousy foreign policy President.

for the record, the first Presidential election I remember is 1984, when I was in second grade. Sharon Meiselman and I agreed that our parents were voting for Mondale, because Reagan was some second-grade term along the lines of poopy pants.

Bob B.
2005-Feb-22, 11:56 PM
...was it Taft who went into the Supreme Court after?
Yes, he became chief justice of the Supreme Court. I believe he was happier and more proud of his court appointment than he was about his presidency. Trivia - Taft was the only ex-president to swear in an incoming president.

jrkeller
2005-Feb-23, 02:10 AM
Herodotus,

I can remember presidents since LBJ. According to criteria, I agree with your rankings, except I think Reagan should be higher than LBJ.

You gave Reagan only a 1 for Partisan, yet he was on good terms with many leading Democrats of the day and got many bills passed even with a Democrat congress.


Why thank you. Yes, I do think Reagan was more bi-partisan than I gave him credit for so he should go up to a five. I think I knocked him down for some of his court nominations, but he was willing to work with the House and Senate Democrats and Reagan was a very good politican.

I had forgotten about the court. IIRC Bork was the only one that caused any uproar.







I think Ford deserves more on the Ideals rating. Pardoning Nixon and getting the nation over Watergate was good and that act probably cost him the 1976 election. He won a Profiles in Courage Award for that action.

BTW, how you come up with the ratings for the presidents? There's plenty of info for the recent presidents, but not much for the early ones.

I will revise Ford, since his pardon was, like you said, a decision that did cost him the election, and nearly the nomination to Reagan in the primary.
As for coming up with the rankings, I have done some college history teaching, including US history so I had to do a lot reading on the subject and that lead me to revising my opinions on some (Polk for example) and then I wanted to just come up with a list of who I thought did well and those who didn't .

It is sure nice to see someone who has actually studied the subject making an informed judgement.

Wally
2005-Feb-23, 01:44 PM
I do, however, think Jimmy Carter is the best EX-President this country has ever had, w/the possible exceptions of John Quincy Adams and . . . .

Really? I was under the impression that most historians, be them democrat or republican, consider Mr. Carter's presidency to be one of the most inaffectual in recent history?

Or, are you ranking them based on post-presidency activities?

Editted to add: In re-reading, I'm thinking you are in fact referring to his activities after leaving office. My mistake.

Herodotus
2005-Feb-23, 07:04 PM
I had forgotten about the court. IIRC Bork was the only one that caused any uproar.

His nomination of Justice William Rehnquist to the post of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the administrations tendency to appoint constructionalist judges to all courts were some causes of contention during his two terms, thought his nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor was a good one on several levels. =D>




It is sure nice to see someone who has actually studied the subject making an informed judgement.
Thank you. :D

Gillianren
2005-Feb-23, 09:28 PM
Yes, he became chief justice of the Supreme Court. I believe he was happier and more proud of his court appointment than he was about his presidency. Trivia - Taft was the only ex-president to swear in an incoming president.

thank you. and I just watched the History Channel series about the Presidents, too--I should've remembered. Taft, as I recall, is also the one who got stuck in the White House bathtub. not that this has any direct bearing on Presidential--or even judicial--ability; it's just one of those pieces of trivia that drives important information out of my brain.

Makgraf
2005-Feb-23, 10:32 PM
I had forgotten about the court. IIRC Bork was the only one that caused any uproar.
Well at the time, maybe but Scalia's been causing a bit since :) (There was a bit of controversy with Rehnquist but as he was already on the court at the time). Reagan also appointed some truly brillant people to lower courts like Kozinski, Posner and Easterbrook.

I like your list but I have a few disagreements with it. Lincoln did a lot of extra-constitutional stuff (like suspending Habeas Corpus) but ultimately he did save it. So I'd give him at least a few points in that category, making him best president. Alsoľ Bill "Perjury" Clinton at 6 for respect for the constitution?!