Presidential historians ranked former President Barack Obama among the top 10 presidents in a recent survey for C-SPAN.
“As the nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, C-SPAN is releasing the results of its fourth Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership, in which a cross-section of presidential historians and professional observers of the presidency ranked the country’s 44 former chief executives on 10 characteristics of leadership,” C-SPAN said in a press release.
Abraham Lincoln ranked first, as he did in the previous three versions of the survey.
RESULTS: C-SPAN's 2021 Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership:
— CSPAN (@cspan) June 30, 2021
“Former President Donald Trump enters the ranks for the first time in the #41 position. His highest rankings were in Public Persuasion (#32) and Economic Management (#34). The historians ranked him in last place (#44) for Moral Authority and Administrative Skills,” the press release continued.
Obama, on the other hand, rose from his #12 ranking in 2017 to #10. In the category of “Moral Authority,” Obama ranked #6, behind only Lincoln, Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Theodore Roosevelt. Trump ranked last in Moral Authority.
Participants in the survey included 142 historians and “professional observers of the presidency,” C-SPAN explained, adding that the team represented 50% increase since 2017, as well as one “reflecting new diversity in race, gender, age and philosophy.”
“C-SPAN’s success in assembling a truly diverse group of historians and professional observers of the presidency only strengthens an already strong poll,” said Amity Shlaes, chairman of the Calvin Coolidge Foundation.
“What stands out to me here is the stability,” said presidential historian Richard Norton Smith. “It’s interesting, particularly at the top and bottom of the list, how little significant movement there has been. By contrast, the living presidents seem much more likely to fluctuate. It’s almost as if there was a boomerang effect where historians go overboard a bit when presidents leave office and they are at the nadir of their partisan reputation, and then they graduate to a less political status.”
Dr. Edna Greene Medford, professor of history at Howard University, was not pleased that so many slave-holding presidents continue to hover at the top of the list. “Despite the fact that we’ve become more aware of the historical implications of racial injustice in this country and we’re continuing to grapple with those issues, we still have slaveholding presidents at or near the top of the list. So even though we may be a bit more enlightened about race today, we are still discounting its significance when evaluating these presidents,” she said.
At the #41 ranking, Trump scored right below William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia 31 days into his presidency.
The only presidents who ranked below Trump were Franklin Pierce, who signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act that led to Bleeding Kansas; Andrew Johnson, who was impeached and opposed rights for black Americans; and James Buchanan, whose ineffective leadership is widely considered a leading factor in the Civil War.