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Historians Just Released Their Latest Survey of Presidential Greatness, and Donald Trump Will Not Be Happy

That's gonna leave a mark.

President Donald Trump isn't popular. The results of a recent survey have only emphasized this.

The Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness survey, a survey of 170 historians conducted by University of Houston professor Brandon Rottinghaus and Boise State University professor Justin S. Vaughn, polled current and recent members of the Presidents & Executive Politics Section of the American Political Science Association and asked them to rate each president based on their performance. The results, released on President's Day, place Trump in last place, knocking James Buchanan, whom many historians agree failed to stop the Civil War, from his former spot.

As the survey notes:

Donald Trump is by far the most polarizing of the ranked presidents earning a 1.6 average (1 is a “most polarizing” ranking). Lincoln is the second most polarizing president of those presidents ranked. He earned a 2.5 ranking. This is close to Polk as the second most polarizing president at 2.6. Trump was ranked “most polarizing” by 95 respondents and second most polarizing by 20 respondents. For comparison, Lincoln, the second most polarizing president on average, received 20 “most polarizing” rakings and 15 second “most polarizing” rankings... Similar to the results by party, respondents of every ideological orientation found President Trump to be the most polarizing of all modern presidents. Respondents who identified as liberal (1.35) and somewhat liberal (1.64) are the most likely to rank President Trump as polarizing, but those identifying as somewhat conservative (1.85) or conservative (2.42) also ranked him as polarizing.

To grade Trump's first year, respondents were asked to grade him "on the traditional academic A-F scale along five key dimensions: his presidency overall, legislative accomplishments, foreign policy leadership, embodying institutional norms, and communicating with the public." There were 155 responses to these questions, yielding 775 grades total:

Overall, Trump earns 3 Fs and 2 Ds, with his best score on Communicating with the Public and his lowest on Embodying Institutional Norms. As one might expect for a Republican president, Trump did best with self-identified Republicans and those who identified as either conservative or somewhat conservative. However, he did not do extremely well even with these groups. Self-identified Republicans gave him 3 Ds and 2 Cs, with his best marks in Foreign Policy Leadership and Communicating with the Public. But those identifying as either conservative or somewhat conservative gave him 4 Ds and 1 F, with the latter grade concerning his embodiment of institutional norms. Again, as one might expect, Trump did worst with Democrats and those identifying as either liberal or somewhat liberal; both groups gave Trump 4 Fs with a D in Communicating with the Public. His grade from those identifying as ideological moderates matched his overall report card – 3Fs and 2Ds, though with a slightly different highlow pattern. In sum, Trump’s freshman year grades were not strong, even among those experts most likely to support him. He consistently did very poorly when it comes to Embodying Institutional Norms and performed best in Communicating with the Public, but never received higher than 14 the equivalent of a C from any group along any dimension. One interesting observation here is that both partisan independents (and those who selected ‘other’) and ideological moderates rated Trump highest on his legislative accomplishments, rather than communicating with the public as the more partisan and ideological respondents did (right and left alike). A second interesting observation is that, after public communication, self-identified Republicans rated Trump next highest on his foreign policy leadership, while Democrats, conservatives, and liberals all rated him next highest on legislative accomplishments.

A sampling of some of the results:


  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. George Washington
  3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  4. Theodore Roosevelt
  5. Thomas Jefferson


  1. Donald Trump
  2. James Buchanan
  3. William Henry Harrison
  4. Franklin Pierce
  5. Andrew Johnson


  • Donald Trump (44th)
  • Barack Obama (8th)
  • George W. Bush (30th)
  • Bill Clinton (13th)
  • George H.W. Bush (17th)
  • Ronald Reagan (9th)

Since the 2014 survey, Barack Obama climbed 10 spots, Bill Clinton fell 5 spots, and George W. Bush rose 5 spots.