Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Rating the Presidents: A Tracking Study

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Rating the Presidents: A Tracking Study

Article excerpt

Between 1982 and 1994, the Siena Research Institute completed and released three Presidential Ratings Studies. Each was administered approximately one year after the inauguration of a new president. For the first of the three presidents, Ronald Reagan, we currently have ratings one year into his first term, one year after he left office, and five years after his presidency ended. We also have the appropriate parallel studies for George Bush and Bill Clinton. It is our intention to continue these tracking surveys, at the same intervals, with each change of administration. The next Siena Research Institute study is scheduled for January 2002.

The survey is one of expert opinion, solicited from academic historians and political scientists throughout the United States. Rather than solicit their views on which president was "great," or a "failure" as has become the custom, we created, in 1980, what we believe to be a more objective rating scale. We established twenty separate categories, ranging from foreign policy to party leadership (see Table One), and asked our responding experts to rank each president in each category on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 outstanding. The resulting responses thus form a matrix of numbers--currently 20 by 41. We then averaged all of the responses, converted the 1-5 scale to percentages, and produced the final rankings(*) (see Table Two).

TABLE 1
Categories of Siena Research Institute Presidential Ranking Survey

 1. Background (family, education, experience)
 2. Party leadership (political)
 3. Communication ability (speak, write)
 4. Relationship with Congress
 5. Court appointments
 6. Handling of U.S. economy
 7. Luck
 8. Ability to compromise
 9. Willing to take risks
10. Executive appointments
11. Overall ability
12. Imagination
13. Domestic accomplishments
14. Integrity
15. Executive ability
16. Foreign policy accomplishments
17. Leadership ability
18. Intelligence
19. Avoid crucial mistakes
20. Your present overall view

TABLE 2 Results of Siena Research Institute Presidential Ranking Survey

Rank in Survey Year

President               1982    1990    1994
Washington               4       4       4
J. Adams                10      14      12
Jefferson                2       3       5
Madison                  9       8       9
Monroe                  15      11      15
J. Q. Adams             17      16      17
Jackson                 13       9      11
Van Buren               21      21      22
W. Harrison             26      35      28
Tyler                   34      33      34
Polk                    12      13      14
Taylor                  29      34      33
Fillmore                32      32      35
Pierce                  35      36      37
Buchanan                37      38      39
Lincoln                  3       2       2
A. Johnson              38      39      40
Grant                   36      37      38
Hayes                   22      23      24
Garfield                25      30      26
Arthur                  24      26      27
Cleveland               18      17      19
B. Harrison             31      29      30
McKinley                19      19      18
T. Roosevelt             5       5       3
Taft                    20      20      21
Wilson                   6       6       6
Harding                 39      40      41
Coolidge                30      31      36
Hoover                  27      28      29
F. Roosevelt             1       1       1
Truman                   7       7       7
Eisenhower              11      12       8
Kennedy                  8      10      10
L. Johnson              14      15      13
Nixon                   28      25      23
Ford                    23      27      32
Carter                  33      24      25
Reagan                  16      22      20
Bush                            18      31
Clinton                                 16

We thus create an overall ranking for each president, from Franklin D. …

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