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Trump Ranks Near Very Bottom in Survey of Best Presidents in US History

Trump ranked last overall in many individual categories, including on foreign policy accomplishments and intelligence.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 23, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Former President Donald Trump ranks near the very bottom in a ranking of U.S. presidents, according to a newly released survey from Siena College.

Starting in 1982, the Siena College Research Institute (SCRI) has regularly published survey results ranking presidents during the second year of the first term of a new president. The SCRI invited 141 presidential scholars, historians, and other academics to take part in its survey, tasking them with grading former U.S. heads of state on 20 different standards, which were then averaged together to produce an overall ranking.

In the seven surveys the institute has published since 1982, five individuals have consistently ranked as the “best” presidents, though their order has shifted over the years. This year, Franklin Roosevelt was ranked first, with Abraham Lincoln ranking second, George Washington third, Theodore Roosevelt fourth, and Thomas Jefferson rounding out the list at fifth.

Four of the five “worst” presidents have also remained consistent across the seven surveys SCRI has released. However, in the past two surveys, another name has been included: Donald Trump.

Trump was ranked as the third-worst president in SCRI’s 2022 survey, ahead of Presidents James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. Trump was also ranked third-worst in the SCRI survey from 2018.

This year, Trump received poor rankings in many individual categories, resulting in his low score overall. Trump placed worst in rankings on his background before becoming president, his executive appointments while in office, his foreign policy, and his intelligence.

Survey director Don Levy cautioned that “it is too early to say how history will ultimately rate Mr. Trump,” but noted that a third of academics participating in the survey this year said that Trump “contributed most of any president to weakening the office.”

This year also marked the first time that President Joe Biden was included in the survey results. Like Trump, Biden’s marks come with a caveat — because he’s still in office, it’s likely that his future actions in the White House will affect his score in upcoming surveys.

Biden was ranked 19th out of the 45 presidents listed in the survey, getting high marks for his willingness to compromise, according to SCRI. Other recent presidents also fared better than Trump — Barack Obama ranked as the 11th best president in U.S. history, whereas George W. Bush ranked as 35th best (or, alternatively, the 11th worst).

The survey also asked the academics for their viewpoints on the office of the president in a general sense. Nearly 7 in 10 respondents (69 percent) said that they believe the first woman president will be elected by the year 2032. When asked how the president should be elected, 63 percent said they believe it’s time to get rid of the Electoral College and adopt a popular vote model, while just 17 percent said they preferred to keep things the way they are.

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