Top 40 American presidents ranked from the worst to the best
In your opinion, who is considered the best president in American history? A team of experts was recently commissioned by C-SPAN to definitively answer this question and the results are fascinating. They ranked each president according to a number of different factors such as public persuasion, leadership in crisis situations, international relations and vision during their term in office. Which of the presidents since 1774 was the best of the best? We have compiled the presidents who ranked in the top 40. Whether you agree or not, read on to find out who is in first place!
The election of the 29th President Warren G. Harding made history because it was the first election in which women could vote. A rural man from Ohio, Warren Harding began his career in the newspaper industry, owning the newspaper Marion Star. After entering politics, he only left his rural Ohio hometown when absolutely necessary for this role.
During his tenure, from 1921 to 1923, Harding championed a “return to normalcy” and officially ended the First World War in 1921 when he officially declared the United States at peace with Germany, Hungary and Austria. He has tried to stimulate the economy through a number of measures. His office suffered many scandals and he unfortunately died of a heart attack while in office.
John Tyler became the 10th president after the death of President William Henry Harrison and was in office from 1841 to 1845. He was the first president to succeed a president who died during his term in office and was, therefore, the first president not to be elected. As the debate on slavery intensified, he supported the right for States to make their own decisions on this and other issues.
He refused to be a “passive” replacement president and even made some enemies in Congress, earning him the sarcastic nickname of “His Accreditation”. They tried to remove him (the first attempt in American history), but the attempt failed. On the foreign front, he negotiated treaties with China and Great Britain. Tyler was also the president with the largest number of children, 15.
The term of office of the ninth President William Henry Harrison was commemorated primarily for his tragedy. This is because Harrison was the first president to die in office and kept the record for the shortest term in office: only 31 days, from March 4, 1841 to April 4, 1841. He died of pneumonia after his inauguration in the rain, some saying it was because he refused to wear a warm jacket, rode a horse and then gave a two-hour speech.
Harrison was the last living president before the American Revolution. He became known for leading the American army to victory in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 and was known as the “Old Tippecanoe”. He was the first president in office to be photographed, but the image has unfortunately been lost in history. His father was Benjamin Harrison, one of the founding fathers, and his grandson, also named Benjamin Harrison, became the 23rd president from 1889 to 1893.
Do you remember the Whig Party? Of course not, because Millard Fillmore was the last president of the Whig Party before the party collapsed. He was born into poverty, but he has educated himself enough to reach the rank of vice-president under President Zachary Taylor. He became the 13th president when President Taylor died of cholera during his term in 1850.
Immediately after Taylor’s death, the entire White House cabinet resigned and Fillmore had to build a new one from scratch. During his presidency, from 1850 to 1853, he signed the Compromise of 1850, which tried (and failed) to avoid a split between North and South. In foreign affairs, he helped to develop relations with Japan, which at the time prohibited all external relations, including foreign trade. Under his leadership, they began to allow American ships to stop in Japan for emergencies or to collect food or water.
The 31st American President Herbert Hoover was President during one of the most difficult periods in American history. Originally from Iowa and then Oregon, he attended Stanford University in its first year of operation in 1891 and married Lou Henry, his college sweetheart. Before entering politics, he spent a large part of his time working abroad in China. He was in Europe when World War I broke out and was credited with helping to evacuate about 120,000 American tourists who were in France and Germany at the time.
During his term of office, from 1929 to 1933, the stock market collapsed and the Great Depression began. Despite the difficult circumstances, he tried several tactics to help the country. Hoover tried to reduce taxes and convince companies to retain their employees during the recession. However, changes were slow and he was forced to hold on in the context of the worst economy the country had ever seen.
Chester Arthur, the 21st president, was the son of Irish immigrants who moved to Vermont, where he was born. It was said that he “looked like a president”, although he only became president after the assassination of President James Garfield in 1881, of which he was vice-president. One of the major achievements of his presidency, from 1881 to 1885, was the enactment of the Pendleton Act.
Pendleton’s Public Service Reform Act changed the face of government jobs by ensuring that people obtain jobs in the federal government through a merit-based system and a distinct political affiliation. The law has begun to use tests for government jobs. During his presidency, he also enacted the first federal immigration law, which aimed to prevent the “poor, criminals and madmen” from immigrating.
In power from 1837 to 1841, Martin Van Buren was president during a major economic crisis known as the Panic of 1837 which began just three months after taking office. It was the first major depression in the United States. Nicknamed “the little magician”, Van Buren argued that the US Treasury should be independent of the government and hold all its funds separately, in order to separate it from changes in political opinion.
Before becoming President, he was Secretary of State under President Andrew Jackson and then Minister of Great Britain. He served only one term and was subject to scrutiny due to the Great Depression he inherited, during which many businesses and banks closed their doors. However, the policies he put forward eventually revitalized the economy. At that time, the effects were felt, however, he was no longer president and therefore did not get much credit for the work.
George W. Bush was the 43rd President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief during one of the most devastating moments, the attacks of September 11, 2001. During his dual mandate, from 2001 to 2008, he ordered the invasion of Afghanistan and a second Gulf War in Iraq, which overthrew Saddam Hussein. He also created the Department of Homeland Security following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.
Before becoming president, he was Governor of Texas for five years. He won the 2000 presidential election following a long recount in Florida because of the popular vote he won by only 0.5% in that state. He became president after winning the election vote, even though he lost the popular vote. He was also the second president in history to be the son of a former president since his father George H.W. Bush had been president about a decade earlier.
Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was the 19th President of the United States from 1877 to 1881. As in the 2000 elections, he lost the popular vote, but finally won the election vote after months of fighting. Even the legendary author Mark Twain had promoted Hayes to president! Previously, he had also served three terms as Governor of Ohio and began his political career in the former Whig Party.
He was a supporter of expanding the civil rights of the black community, but his efforts were blocked by a Democrat-majority Congress. He advocated public service reviews to ensure that government members obtained jobs based on merit rather than political ties, which later became the Pendleton Act. His wife was the first First Lady to attend college and encouraged a non-alcohol White House.
The 12th American President, Zachary Taylor, is best known for his short term of office. He was a war hero before entering politics and was nicknamed “Old Rough and Ready” for his leadership on the ground during his military years. He was known to have been a war hero during the Mexican-American war. Zachary Taylor was also the last Whig Party leader to be elected president.
His mandate, which began in March 1849, was strongly focused on the debate around slavery. Taylor turned to an anti-slavery position, even though he himself owned slaves at the time. He encouraged New Mexico and California to become states during his term. Unfortunately, he died in office on July 9, 1850 due to cholera. He had only become ill a few days earlier, some saying he had become ill because of bacteria in the milk and ice water he had consumed on July 4, in addition to eating a large number of cherries.
Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States and served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He ranks 30th on the list of the greatest American presidents, mainly for his excellence in international relations and his good working relations with Congress during his term from 1889 to 1893. His nickname during his tenure was “Little Ben”.
Harrison is well known for defending and enforcing the right to vote for African Americans. He was also responsible for the admission of six Western states to the Union: North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. Harrison was the great grandson and namesake of founding father Benjamin Harrison and remains the only president to also have a grandfather president of the United States, William Henry Harrison or “Old Tippecanoe”.
James A. Garfield was the 20th President of the United States and holds the title of the only current member of the House of Representatives to have been elected President of the United States. Prior to his political career, Garfield was a division general on the Union side during the American Civil War and participated in several major civil war battles, such as Middle Creek, Shiloh and Chickamauga.
He was able to accomplish a long list of accomplishments during his term of office from March 4, 1881 to September 19, 1881. Among other things, he had succeeded in strengthening the navy and eradicating corruption in the postal service. He was concerned with civil rights and advocated for a universal education system for all. He also appointed a number of African Americans, such as Frederick Douglass, to senior government positions. Unfortunately, his presidency was cut very short following an assassination attempt in July 1881 that led to a number of infections.
Richard M. Nixon was the 37th President of the United States and had an immense talent for negotiating foreign affairs. During his tenure, from 1969 to 1974, he successfully ended American engagement in Vietnam, brought prisoners of war home, established diplomatic relations with China and signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the USSR. Before becoming President, he was Vice-President of President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961.
Nixon was also responsible for desegregation in the South, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the enactment of the anti-crime bill and the launch of the “war on cancer”. Nixon would have ranked much higher on the list without the Watergate scandal. He ran in the 1960 presidential elections but was defeated by Democrat John F. Kennedy.
Calvin Coolidge was first vice-president and then took over after the death of President Warren Harding in 1923. He won the 1924 presidential election and served until 1929. Coolidge was a great advocate of small governments and laissez-faire foreign policy. When he left his post, he was very popular. Many considered his presidency as a time when dignity was restored, as the White House had been tainted by several years of scandals.
Calving Coolidge had a gentle attitude, but he fought for what he thought was right. He was a strong advocate for racial equality and civil rights, although his efforts were not always endorsed by the rest of the government. This was the case when he advocated making lynching a federal crime. However, he had passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted citizenship to all Amerindians living on reserves. “He embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could interpret their desires and express their opinions. That he represented the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength,” his biographer wrote.
Jimmy Carter served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He grew up in a successful peanut farming family and, while developing his business, he became passionate about the civil rights movement, which led him to enter politics. While he was President, he created the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Education. He was also behind the Camp David Accords, which led to the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty in 1979.
According to C-SPAN’s ranking, Carter has achieved very good results in terms of moral authority and the pursuit of equal justice for all. He was confronted with several international crises during his presidency, including the 1979 energy crisis and the hostage crisis in Iran. Facing all this had an impact on the general attitude in the nation and, in turn, its popularity rate, which caused him to lose the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan. In 2002, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for the work of his NGO, the Carter Center.
Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States after Richard Nixon resigned. His presidential term lasted from 1974 to 1977. We remember his participation in the Helsinki Agreements, which attempted to thaw relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and in particular his pardon to former President Richard Nixon.
Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, his legal career propelled him into politics. Overall, he ranks first for his moral authority as he led the country through a severe economic depression. Gerald Ford holds the title of being the only man to be both president and vice-president without being elected.
President William H. Taft, the 27th President of the United States, is the only man to have served as President and then Chief Justice of the United States. Yes, after being president, he became chief justice eight years later! Taft was originally from Ohio and continued his law studies at Yale, where he is said to have been a member of the secret society Skull and Bones. A talented lawyer, he was appointed judge in his early twenties.
During his presidential term from 1909 to 1913, he focused his efforts on East Asia more than on European affairs. Taft has also intervened in Latin American affairs to set up or overthrow governments.
Grover Cleveland was president for two terms, the first from 1885 to 1889. He lost his first re-election, but eventually won again in 1893 and served until 1897. He was defended by the Conservatives for his tax policy and because he had advocated political reform. During his second term, he faced the panic of 1893, a terrible economic slowdown and a huge national railway strike, known as the Pullman strike of 1894.
He was a descendant from one of the first families to settle in the New World, moving from Cleveland, England, to Massachusetts in 1635. Cleveland excelled in public speaking and persuasion. “He possessed honesty, courage, firmness, independence and common sense. But he possessed them to a certain extent that other men do not,” his biographer later wrote. Despite a dull second term, Cleveland is considered one of the best American presidents.
War hero Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States and was highly appreciated by the public during his tenure from 1869 to 1877. Previously, he had been a general-commander of the Union army during the civil war. A graduate of West Point, he gained importance when he fought in the Mexican-American War just a few years after graduation.
When he was sworn in as president at the age of 47, he was the youngest president at the time. Grant received a high ranking for his public persuasion, moral authority, excellence in international relations and pursuit of justice for all Americans. He is remembered as an honest person who took a strong stand against the KKK in the old Confederation. Grant also appointed African Americans and American Jews to power for the first time.
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States, serving from 1825 to 1829, and the son of the President and founding father, John Adams. He is also ranked high in the list for his strong vision for the country and his dedication to ensuring that all Americans are treated equally.
Adams was fiercely opposed to slavery. According to him, he was “the sharpest, cleverest, most arch enemy of southern slavery that ever existed.” President Adams has also been a strong advocate of non-intervention policies, staying out of European politics. He was also against the annexation of Texas. The oldest preserved picture of a president is that of John Quincy Adams taken in 1843, at the age of 76.
George H. W. W. Bush is well placed on the list of presidents because of his excellence in crisis leadership, his high competence in international relations and his high moral authority. He served from 1989 to 1993, after serving as Vice President for eight years under the leadership of Ronald Reagan. During his presidency, he oversaw the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf War.
In terms of internal affairs, he created the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act. He was also a signatory to the historic North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico. He and his wife Barbara hold the record for the longest presidential wedding. When Barbara Bush died in April 2018, they had been married for 73 years.
John Adams, one of America’s founding fathers, was the second president of the United States. He is best remembered for his resolution of the conflict with France and for the formation of the army and navy during his tenure from 1797 to 1801.
John Adams is commonly known as “the father of the American navy”. He achieved the best results in international relations, moral authority and leadership in times of crisis. Adams served only one term as President and Thomas Jefferson succeeded him.
Andrew Jackson is well placed on the list of American presidents, mainly because of his public persuasion skills and his ability to lead crises during his term from 1829 to 1837. He holds the title of the only American president to have been a prisoner of war because he was taken prisoner by the British during the War of Independence when he was 13 years old.
He remains the only president who has succeeded in paying down the national debt and preventing South Carolina from seceding from the Union. Although Andrew Jackson appears on the $20 bill, he was against the use of paper money, preferring the use of gold and silver instead.
James Madison, also known as the father of the Constitution, was the fourth president of the United States and a founding father. Madison ranked 17th for his great moral authority and superb performance during his two terms from 1809 to 1817. He led the country during the War of 1812 and called for the strengthening of the armed forces, government powers and the creation of a national bank.
Madison was very smart, finishing university in just two years. He was also the first graduate student at Princeton University. His wife Dolley played a key role in defining the role of the First Lady. She was the first to play an active role in the White House by redecorating and leading a public awareness program for orphans.
William McKinley was the 25th President of the United States and the most recent President to have served during the civil war. He was Commander-in-Chief from 1897 to 1901. We remember the 25th President for leading the United States to victory in the Spanish-American war.
He is also known to have advanced the U.S. economy and maintained the gold standard. He was also president when Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines became American territories. McKinley ranks first in C-SPAN’s presidential inquiry on almost all criteria, with the exception of the search for equal justice for all.
Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States and is remembered for his public persuasion and exemplary economic management during his term from 1993 to 2001. Clinton holds the title of the longest period of peacetime and economic expansion of all presidents.
He carried out a number of reforms concerning social assistance and health insurance for children and actively promoted peace efforts throughout the world. “He brought the greatest prosperity we have ever known and he does not have the merit and that is a pity,” said White House journalist Helen Thomas. His approval rating when he left his position was 60%, the highest since the Second World War.
James K. Polk was the 11th President of the United States and achieved the best results for his leadership in times of crisis and his clear vision of the country during his tenure from 1845 to 1849. Polk was the first person whose inauguration was covered in the news by telegraph.
Under President Polk’s leadership, the United States reigned victorious in the Mexican-American war and considerably expanded its territory. With the Mexican Cession of 1848, the United States extended its territory to the Pacific Ocean. He also annexed the Republic of Texas during his term of office.
Founding father James Monroe was the fifth president of the United States from 1817 to 1825. He fought in the American War of Independence and his first term was announced in what was known as the era of good feelings. President Monroe is well known today for his foreign policy, known as the “Monroe Doctrine”.
Monroe has achieved very good results in international relations and performance, but failed to achieve the goal of equal justice for all.
Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States and the very first African American to win the title. Obama has achieved very good results for his moral authority, his pursuit of justice for all and his ability to persuade the public during his term from 2009 to 2017.
Obama is remembered for reforming health care with the Affordable Care Act, repealing the military policy “Dont’ Ask Don’t Tell”, helping to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, normalizing relations with Cuba and initiating sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine.
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States for two terms, from 1913 to 1921. He scores best for the clarity of his program and his public persuasion skills. Wilson led the United States during the First World War and contributed to the Treaty of Versailles which significantly contributed to ending the war.
At the end of the conference, Wilson is famous for saying: “At last the world knows America as the saviour of the world!” He strongly insisted that the United States join the League of Nations, which eventually became the United Nations, but Congress did not approve.
Lyndon Baines Johnson was the 36th President of the United States and received a high mark in C-SPAN’s investigation for his pursuit of equal justice for all and good relations with Congress during his tenure from 1963 to 1969.
Lyndon Baines Johnson, however, performed poorly in international relations, but what he lacked internationally, he made up for at the national level. Johnson passed numerous national laws affecting civil rights, firearms laws and social welfare. He passed social security into law and extended Medicare and Medicaid.
The ninth best president in history is none other than Ronald Reagan, who was the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Reagan is among the highest performers of all presidents for his skills in public persuasion and his clear vision for the country.
President Reagan is well known for his Reaganomics policy, as well as for ending the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the Iran-Contra affair. We also remember his emblematic speech in West Germany, in front of the Berlin Wall, in which he told Soviet Secretary General Gorbachev to “bring down that wall”.
John F. Kennedy is eighth on the list. He was the 35th President of the United States from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. He remains the only Roman Catholic to have held the position of President.
Kennedy achieves the best results for his public persuasion skills and for the clarity of his vision and program for the country. He created the Peace Corps and was a leader during the Cuban missile crisis.
Founding father Thomas Jefferson is ranked seventh on the list of the best presidents. He was the third president of the nation from 1801 to 1809 and was the main author of the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson orchestrated the purchase of Louisiana with France, doubling the territory of the United States. He was also a defender of religious freedom and tolerance. Jefferson scored poorly in only one category, the search for equal justice for all.
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States and is ranked sixth among the top presidents. He served in the United States Army during the First World War and took up his duties immediately after the end of the Second World War. He served from 1945 to 1953.
During his term as President, he used his veto 180 times, which is staggering. He also holds the title of the only president to have used nuclear weapons. He holds a high ranking in the categories of leadership in times of crisis, the pursuit of justice for all and performance.
Dwight D. Eisenhower is the fifth highest ranking president on this list. He was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. He achieved very good results for his moral authority, as well as for his leadership in crisis situations and his international relations.
Eisenhower was responsible for implementing the desegregation of the armed forces, a policy defined by President Truman. Eisenhower has always been at the top of surveys of the most admired men of all time.
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, is in fourth place. He ranks second for his public persuasion skills and fourth in the areas of economic management, international relations, administrative skills and vision.
During his tenure from 1901 to 1909, Theodore Roosevelt was responsible for the creation of many national parks and forests, as well as monuments. He began construction of the Panama Canal, expanded the navy and won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the end of the Russo-Japanese war.
The third highest ranking president of all time is Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was the 32nd President of the United States and holds the title of being the only President to have been elected four times, holding this position from 1933 to 1945.
He was a master of public persuasion and leadership in crisis situations. He led the nation through the Great Depression and to victory in the Second World War. He implemented many social and economic reforms as part of the New Deal to try to get the United States out of the clutches of the Great Depression.
The second most appreciated president of all time is George Washington, the very first president of the United States. As a founding father, Washington defined the nation and the duties of a president during his term from 1789 to 1797.
George Washington helped establish many of the most basic parts of the American government, such as the seat of government and the tax system. He was head of the continental army during the American War of Independence. Washington has performed well in almost all categories, with the exception of the search for equal justice for all.
Abraham Lincoln is the highest-ranking American president of all time. He was the 16th president from 1861 to 1865. He led the Union during the civil war and, above all, began the process of abolishing slavery.
He laid the foundations for the abolition of slavery by promulgating the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which changed the status of slaves in the South to liberate people. His mission was to add the 13th amendment to the Constitution, which would make slavery officially illegal in the United States. Unfortunately, the Constitution was not adopted until after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. A number of different polls show that Lincoln is the most admired American president of all time.