Greatness in the White House: Rating the Presidents

By Robert K. Murray; Tim H. Blessing | Go to book overview

SEVEN
Reactions to Presidential Rankings and Presidential Performances

PUBLICATION OF THE FIRST SCHLESINGER POLL in 1948 generated not only a surprising amount of public interest but also a considerable number of complaints. The largest number of complaints received by the Harvard professor came from those who opposed the experts ranking Franklin Roosevelt so high. After his second poll in 1962, Schlesinger was again bombarded with protests, this time the most numerous centered around Trumanbeing rated as Near Great while Eisenhower was placed near the bottom of the Average group. 1

When the first ranking results of the present study appeared in Parade Magazine in late 1982, we also were deluged by an avalanche of complaints about how wrong the historian experts were. Such protests, sometimes accompanied by multipage letters, ranged all over the lot, indicating once more not only a wide public interest in rating the presidents but also the differing criteria used by people to assess those who have held that office. Although no one objected to the premier position of Lincoln, numerous protestors did not like Washington being placed below Franklin Roosevelt. Some did not want Roosevelt put in the top three at all. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson also had their detractors who wanted them placed farther down on the list. A number still complained that Truman was ranked too high and that Eisenhower was too low. And so it went. A man from Worcester, Massachusetts, wrote, "I always considered Coolidge our best president." One Californian asserted, "Nixon is the only man among them." The most succinct letter read:

Dear Dr. Murray: Regarding your listing of presidents. Pfft!!2

-71-

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