U.S. Presidential Rankings: "We Like Feistiness"

Feb 23, 2017

Just weeks after leaving the White House, President Barack Obama ranks as the 12th best president overall, according to a new poll of historians conducted by C-SPAN. It's the first time Obama is eligible for the Presidential Historians Survey, which asked 91 historians to rank all 43 former presidents across 10 categories. 

"We like spirit, spunk, and personality. It adds a little zest to the greatness." Tim Walch

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with presidential historian Tim Walch and political scientist Cary Covington to explore how we measure past presidents and how our view of presidents can change once they’ve left office.

As in C-SPAN's first two surveys, released in 2000 and 2009, Abraham Lincoln receives top billing among the historians. George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt retain their top five status, while Dwight Eisenhower moves into the top five for the first time.

Three presidents continue to hold the same bottom rankings as they did in 2000 and 2009: James Buchanan remains in last place at #43, preceded by Andrew Johnson (#42), and Franklin Pierce (#41).