Top 10 Best Presidents: Here’s How Experts Ranked Them!

That is, that’s what more than 100 experts say. The data journalism website Stacker just put out a list of the “best U.S. presidents of all time.

“The list is based on C-most SPAN’s recent ranking of all 44 U.S. presidents from June 2021. The Presidential Historians Survey on C-SPAN is based on the opinions of “historians, professors, and other experts on the presidency.

“In 2021, 142 experts filled out the survey, in which they rated the presidents on a scale from one to ten, with one being “not effective” and ten being “very effective” in 10 categories:

  • Public persuasion
  • Crisis leadership
  • Economic management
  • Moral authority
  • International relations
  • Administrative skills
  • Relations with Congress
  • Vision/setting an agenda
  • Pursued equal justice for all
  • Performance within the context of times

The Presidential Historians Survey came out for the first time in 2000. Since then, it has been updated in 2009, 2017, and 2021. Since President Joe Biden is still in office, he was left out of the most recent one.

Find out below which 10 presidents made the list.

10. Barack Obama

44th president (Jan. 20, 2009-Jan. 20, 2017)

Overall C-SPAN score: 664

Fun fact: This was the first time President Obama made the top 10. Obama was ranked 12th in the 2017 update.

Top 10 Best Presidents

The first Black president of the U.S. did best in political persuasion, moral authority, and making sure everyone got equal justice. He came in third place overall in the category of pursuing justice for everyone, after Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.

9. Ronald Reagan

40th president (Jan. 20, 1981-Jan. 20, 1989)

Overall C-SPAN score: 681

During Reagan’s time in office, the United States went the longest without a recession or depression during times of peace.

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Top 10 Best Presidents

The former actor-turned-politician ranked fifth overall in both political persuasion and vision/ability to set an agenda, where he got the highest scores.

8. John F. Kennedy

35th president (Jan. 20, 1961-Nov. 22, 1963)

Overall C-SPAN score: 699

In four of the 10 categories, JFK came in seventh. Kennedy is known for the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was also killed in his third year in office.

Top 10 Best Presidents

His work to ease the nuclear arms crisis may have helped him get his highest score in political persuasion, which put him in sixth place overall in that category.

7. Thomas Jefferson

3rd president (March 4, 1801-March 4, 1809)

Overall C-SPAN score: 704

Fun fact: Jefferson has been seventh on the list all four times it has been made.

The main person who wrote the Declaration of Independence is also known for buying the land that is now 15 states from Napoleon in 1803.

Top 10 Best Presidents

This was done through the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. Jefferson did best in three categories: vision/ability to set an agenda, performance in the context of the times, and relations with Congress. Overall, he was ranked fifth in these three categories.

6. Harry S. Truman

33rd president (April 12, 1945-Jan. 20, 1953)

Overall C-SPAN score: 713

Top 10 Best Presidents

After FDR died in 1945, Truman took over his job. His best grades were in international relations and handling a crisis. Truman decided that atomic bombs should be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

5. Dwight D. Eisenhower

34th president (Jan. 20, 1953-Jan. 20, 1961)

Overall C-SPAN score: 734

Top 10 Best Presidents

People say that Eisenhower ended the Korean War by making a deal for a cease-fire. The former army general did best in moral authority, where he got the fourth-best score, and international relations, where he got the fifth-best score.

4. Theodore Roosevelt

26th president (Sept. 14, 1901-March 4, 1909)

Overall C-SPAN score: 785
Roosevelt became president after President William McKinley was killed in office. He was known for his “big stick” foreign policy. Roosevelt got the Nobel Peace Prize for trying to end the Russia-Japan War through talks (1904-1905).
Top 10 Best Presidents
His best scores were in the categories of political persuasion, where he came in third, and vision/ability to set an agenda, where he came in fourth overall. 

3. Franklin D. Roosevelt

32nd president (March 4, 1933-April 12, 1945)

Overall C-SPAN score: 841
Top 10 Best Presidents

FDR, who was president for three terms, was the best at persuasion and dealing with other countries. Most people remember him for the New Deal he made after the Great Depression and for leading the country during World War II.

2. George Washington

1st president (April 30, 1789-March 4, 1797)

Overall C-SPAN score: 851
Top 10 Best Presidents
The first president of the United States and the leader of the Revolutionary War got the highest marks for his performance in the context of the time and for his vision and ability to set goals. In the category of relations with Congress, Washington was also at the top of the list.

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1. Abraham Lincoln

16th president (March 4, 1861-April 15, 1865)

Overall C-SPAN score: 897

The Presidential Historians Survey has been done four times, and each time Lincoln has come out on top. Lincoln ranked first in seven of the 10 categories. He is known for leading America through the Civil War, which was the deadliest war in its history.

Top 10 Best Presidents

On January 1, 1863, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which said, “All persons held as slaves in the United States are now and forever free.”The areas where he did best were crisis leadership, vision/ability to set an agenda, and performance in light of the times.

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