Pres. Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign rally at the Times Union Center. Jim Franco / Spotlight News
COLONIE — He’s No. 1 in your wallet, so it should come as no surprise Pres. George Washington slid up a notch to the top spot in Siena College Research Institute’s sixth Survey of U.S. Presidents.
The top five haven’t changes since SRI began the survey in 1982, always taken one year after a president is in office. SRI Director Don Levy referred to them as Mount Rushmore plus FDR: Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
But, for the first time, Washington, the nation’s first president, knocked off FDR, the 32nd president who held the No. 1 spot in 1981, 1990, 1994, 2002 and 2010. In 2010, Washington was ranked in fourth behind Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR.
The rankings are based on the opinion of 157 scholars in regards to 20 different categories including imagination, integrity, intelligence, executive ability, leadership, relationship with Congress, court appointments, domestic accomplishments, foreign policy accomplishments and avoiding mistakes.
Theodore Roosevelt is rated highest on attributes, Lincoln tops the list on abilities and Washington leads on accomplishments.
President Donald Trump, the 45th president who currently holds the seat, ranked 42nd, and he joins Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Warren Harding and Franklin Piece in the bottom five.
Dwight Eisenhower moved up to sixth, the highest ranking he has ever achieved, while Ronald Reagan jumped five spots to 13th, and George W. Bush was up six places but remains in 33rd place. Barack Obama slipped two spots to 17th, Bill Clinton dropped to 15th from 13th, and Andrew Jackson fell five places to 19th.
“While other ‘moderns’ are highly rated, including (Harry) Truman at ninth this year and six straight times in the top 10 and (John) Kennedy, 10th this year and back in the top 10 after narrowly missing in the last two surveys, no president that has served since Kennedy is considered one of our 10 best,” said Doug Lonnstrom, SCRI’s founding director and one of the survey’s originators.
“The serving president has entered the survey between 15th, Obama, and 23rd, G.W. Bush, as scholars begin to observe their accomplishments, assess their abilities and study their attributes,” Levy said.
Scholars were also asked which of the presidents they would like to see in office today to address each of seven current issues. Obama was selected three times for addressing health care in the U.S., ensuring that American values are afforded to all Americans regardless of their race, ethnicity or socio-economic position and, tied with FDR, for developing a shared vision of America’s role in the next century.
Eisenhower was the top pick for resolving the crisis with North Korea and combatting the threat of global terrorism.
Bill Clinton was the choice for promoting sustainable growth in the American economy and Washington was top rated on enhancing trust in the federal government.
The scholars that responded to the survey said that of all 44 presidents (Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and the 24th president so there are only 44 people who held the office 45 times) Franklin D. Roosevelt had the best first year in office followed by Washington and Lyndon Johnson.
Donald Trump is named as the president whose first year in office was the worst followed by Andrew Johnson and George W. Bush.
“The perfect president? Scholars agree that Washington today is ranked first and encourages trust in the federal government. FDR is close, ranked second and remembered for his first year. Lincoln may have had the greatest skills, Teddy Roosevelt, the right stuff, and Eisenhower today is the leader many would like addressing international trouble spots,” Levy said. “Jefferson, Madison, Monroe remain profoundly respected and among the moderns, Reagan, Clinton and Obama are highly regarded. While Trump has entered the rankings near the bottom, despite his initial low scores, it is early in his presidency and history not these historians will determine his ultimate place among American presidents.”
The Survey of U.S. Presidents is based on responses from 157 presidential scholars, historians and political scientists that responded via mail or web to an invitation to participate. Respondents ranked each of 44 presidents on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) on each of the 20 presidential attributes, abilities and accomplishments. Overall rankings were computed by assigning equal weight to each of those 20 categories.