Historians rank Trump ahead of only 3 other presidents

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Donald Trump
Donald Trump Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

C-SPAN has once again surveyed historians on how they rank every U.S. president, and this time, there's a new addition: former President Donald Trump.

C-SPAN on Wednesday released its fourth ranking of every American president, which in this case is based on a survey of 142 historians and presidential observers, and it judges each commander-in-chief by 10 leadership characteristics. The network has conducted such a presidential survey going back to 2000 after the end of each administration, so this was the first time Trump was eligible to be ranked.

The historians placed Trump at 41st on the list, ahead of only three other presidents: Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and, at the very bottom, James Buchanan. Trump came in at #32 in the category of public persuasion and #34 on economic management, but he came in very last place for "moral authority and administrative skills."

Abraham Lincoln remained at the top of the list, the position he's held in all four surveys, followed by George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. This was Obama's first time in the top 10, C-SPAN noted, after he previously ranked #12 in 2017. George W. Bush also climbed up to #29 from #33, while Bill Clinton fell to #19 from #15.

"What stands out to me here is the stability," historian Richard Norton Smith told C-SPAN. "It's interesting, particularly at the top and bottom of the list, how little significant movement there has been. By contrast, the living presidents seem much more likely to fluctuate. It's almost as if there was a boomerang effect where historians go overboard a bit when presidents leave office and they are at the nadir of their partisan reputation, and then they graduate to a less political status." See the full ranking at C-SPAN.

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