C-Span conducts an occasional survey of presidential historians that includes a ranking of all former presidents according to 10 qualities that reflect on presidential leadership. The survey is conducted whenever there is a new president. The new president is, of course, not rated, but the latest survey, the first to include Donald Trump, is hot off the presses.
To cut to the chase, Trump was ranked the 41st greatest president, out of 44.
The three that came in lower than Trump were Franklin Pierce, 42; Andrew Johnson, 43; and James Buchanan, 44. (I’m proud to say that, as recently as last October in the middle of the Trump awfulness and without knowledge of these rankings, I made the case for Buchanan as the worst. Buchanan, Lincoln’s immediate predecessor, had four years starting in 1857 to do something to head off the Civil War.)
I think it will take a while for Trump to settle into his final resting place on the list, but I do not expect to live long enough to see a big upward revision in his ranking.
The top five in the latest presidential leadership rankings, if you’re curious, were, in order: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower in fifth place. The other four have been near the top since the rankings started in 2000, but Ike has moved up nicely since he placed 9th in that first ranking 21 years ago.
If you are a fellow history nerd and want more, this link will give you access an overview and entry point.