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President Greatness Survey Ranks Lincoln First, Trump Last

Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery and won the Civil War, is ranked No. 1 in the 2024 Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey with a competency score of 93.87.

The results were released nationwide via Qualtrics in late February of 2024 by respected political scientists Brandon Rottinghaus of the University of Houston, and Justin S. Vaughn, of Costal Carolina University.

Donald Trump (above), the 45th president of the U.S., was ranked dead last—as the worst commander-in-chief in the nation’s history. Trump earned a rock-bottom “overall greatness” score of 10.92 points, on a scale of 1 to 100, according to the preeminent group of political scientists and historians who conducted the annual survey. 

Trump finished one notch above James Buchanan, who was president before Lincoln and is generally credited with causing the start of the Civil War, which killed 620,000 Americans. Ranked No. 44, Buchanan scored 16.7 points.

President Joe Biden (above) referred to Trump’s dismal ranking twice in the June 20, 2024 presidential debate with Trump. However, main-stream media did not widely report his comments. In February, the survey results also were ignored by the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led the nation through the Great Depression and World War II, ranked No. 2 with a score of 90.83. George Washington (No. 3) scored 90.32. No other president posted a competency score of more than 78 points in the survey.

A total of 525 scholars, representing a wide range of academic disciplines, were invited to complete the online survey, and 191 surveys were completed between November 15, 2023 and December 31, 2023 for a 36% response rate.

Respondents included current and recent members of the presidents and executive politics section of the American Political Science Assn., which is the foremost organization of social-science experts in presidential politics, according to Rottinghaus and Vaughn.

Also polled were scholars who had recently published peer-reviewed academic research in key related scholarly journals or academic presses.

The “Presidential Greatness” survey ranked President Biden in 14th place with a score of 62.66, just ahead of Woodrow Wilson (15th with 61.8 points), who launched the League of Nations.

Surprisingly, President Biden ranked ahead of Ronald Reagan (16th with 61.62 points), who brought down the Berlin Wall and broke up the Soviet Union.

Here are the other top-ranked winners of the “Presidential Greatness” survey, which averaged the ranking scores of self-identified conservative and liberal respondents:

• Teddy Roosevelt, the military “Rough Rider” and outdoorsman who was responsible for developing the U.S. National Parks system, ranked No. 4 with a score of 78.58. Thomas Jefferson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, finished No. 5 with a score of 77.53.

• Harry Truman, who ordered the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II, and always said: “The Buck Stops Here,” was No. 6 with a rating of 75.34.

• Barack Obama, who rose from Chicago neighborhood political activist to become the nation’s first black president, finished No. 7 with a rating of 73.8.

• World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower, the five-star general and Supreme Allied Commander, who planned and executed the D-Day Invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944. The invasion led to winning of the war. Ike is ranked No. 8 with a score of 73.73.

• Lyndon B. Johnson, who guided landmark Civil Rights legislation through Congress, but couldn’t solve the nagging problem of the Vietnam war, finished No. 9 with a score of 72.86.

• John F. Kennedy, a World War II Navy PT-Boat hero, and masterful political speaker who settled the Cuban missel crisis, and urged America to shoot for the moon, ranked No. 10 with a score of 68.37.

Unfortunately, Kennedy was assassinated before he accomplished his campaign goals. Kennedy still finished ahead of No. 11, James Madison, the nation’s fourth President, who is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” He scored 67.16.  

• Bill Clinton, who is credited with reducing the national debt by a record $363 billon between 1998 and 2000, is ranked No. 12 with a score of 66.42. Unfortunately, Clinton was involved in a White House sex scandal with Monica Lewinski.

• Kind-hearted, religious peanut farmer Jimmy Carter ranked 22nd, scoring of 54.26. He always will be fondly remembered for launching the Habitat for Humanity and building homes for the poor.

• Richard Nixon, architect of the Watergate scandal, will be remembered for ending the Vietnam War, and opening diplomatic relations with China. Tricky Dick is ranked at No. 35, with a score of 36.41.

Rottinghaus noted that any president with a score of 50 or less means he was grade “C”—average or worse. That includes such losers as Republicans Gerald Ford (46.09), George W. Bush (40.43), and Herbert Hoover (34.08). 

Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit


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