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New survey ranks Abraham Lincoln as most effective president, Donald Trump as one of the least

A view of the White House.
A view of the White House.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Abraham Lincoln is the most effective president in US history according to a recently released C-SPAN survey.

The Presidential Historians Survey canvassed presidential historians and professional presidential observers to rank the country’s 44 former chief executives based on ten characteristics of leadership.

Participants, whose individual answers were anonymous, used a 1 “not effective” to 10 “very effective” scale to rate each president on ten qualities of presidential leadership including 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 the times.


Lincoln, who led the nation during the Civil War, was given his highest rankings in crisis leadership, moral authority, vision/setting an agenda, and performance within the context of the times.

Former president Donald Trump entered the ranks for the first time in spot #41. His highest rankings were in public persuasion and economic management, but he was ranked in last place for moral authority and administrative skills. Franklin Pierce, best known to some for his determination to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, was ranked five spots above Donald Trump in moral authority.

Joining Trump in the bottom five were William Henry Harrison (#40), Pierce (#42), Andrew Johnson (#43), and James Buchanan (#44).

Harrison managed to rank above Trump in spot #40 despite being the shortest-serving president in US history. Harrison died from pneumonia in 1841, one month after taking the oath of office.

Since 2000, C-SPAN has conducted the survey with every change in administration. This year, approximately 142 historians and presidential observers participated.

For the second survey in a row, Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower were given the top 5 spots.

Some of the most recent former presidents including Barack Obama and George W. Bush ranked higher this year than in previous surveys. Barack Obama rose to #10 from his #12 ranking in 2017. George W. Bush continued his steady incline, now ranking at #29, from #33 in 2017 and #36 in 2009.


Maria Elena Little Endara can be reached at mariaelena.littleendara@globe.com.