President George W. Bush is near the bottom of the heap in the latest survey of historians on presidential leadership.
Bush received an overall ranking of 36 out of 42 former presidents—in the bottom 10.
Ronald Reagan was rated 10th best, up from 11th in a similar survey taken in 2000; Bill Clinton was rated 15, up from 21 in 2000. George H.W. Bush went to 18 from 20.
The five best presidents, according to the historians, were Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, in that order. Rounding out the top 10 were John F. Kennedy at six, Thomas Jefferson, Dwight Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson, and Reagan.
The worst presidents, according to the survey, were James Buchanan at 42, Andrew Johnson at 41, Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison, Warren Harding, Millard Fillmore, George W. Bush, John Tyler, Herbert Hoover, and Rutherford B. Hayes.
The survey was conducted for C-SPAN, the cable network, among 65 presidential historians and scholars, who ranked the 42 former occupants of the White House on 10 attributes of leadership: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, "vision/setting an agenda," "pursued equal justice for all," and "performance within the context of his times."
Supervising the survey were historians Douglas Brinkley of Rice University, Edna Medford of Howard University, and Richard Norton Smith of George Mason University.
"How we rank our presidents is, to a large extent, influenced by our own times," Medford said in a news release. "Today's concerns shape our views of the past, be it in the area of foreign policy, managing the economy, or human rights. . . . Lincoln continues to rank at the top in all categories because he is perceived to embody the nation's core values: integrity, moderation, persistence in the pursuit of honorable goals, respect for human rights, compassion; those who collect near the bottom are perceived as having failed to uphold those values."
Among the historians and political scientists who participated in the ratings were H. W. Brands, Thomas Cronin, Robert Dallek, Alvin Felzenberg, Fred Greenstein, and James McPherson.