Top 7 US presidents of all time – how do Obama and Reagan compare?

Barack Obama Speech

A C-Span 2017 survey asked historians to rank US presidents in a range of key categories.

Categories included in the survey were public persuasion, relations with congress, economic management and performance within the context of the times.

Here are the top seven US presidents of all time, according to the survey respondents.

7th – Thomas Jefferson

Unsurprisingly, America’s founding fathers rank highly on this list. Jefferson served as the country’s first ever secretary of state under George Washington before becoming John Adams’ vice president. Then in 1800, Jefferson beat Adams under the Democratic-Republican party banner, four years after losing to him, winning with 73 electoral college votes to Adams’ 65.

During Jefferson’s time in power, he cut taxes, decreased military spending and expanded the US’ territory with the Louisiana purchase, according to PBS.

Historians gave him an overall store of 727 out of 1000, putting him in seventh place overall.

6th – Harry S. Truman

One of only two post-war presidents to make the top seven, Democratic president Truman took over from FDR a month into the start of his fourth term. Truman went on to win the 1948 election, effectively serving two whole terms.

He is known for being president when the US used nuclear weapons in Japan to end the war in the east, as well as the Truman doctrine, which sought to contain the spread communism in the first years of the Cold War.

His C-Span survey score: 737.

5th – Dwight Eisenhower

One of America’s few presidents to go from never having held elected office to winning the presidency – including incumbent Donald Trump – Eisenhower was a successful World War Two general who only entered the presidential race following a grassroots “Draft Eisenhower” campaign. He won the 1952 and 1956 elections for the Republicans, with Richard Nixon as his running-mate on each occasion.

He was president during the Korean war and the continued Cold War between the West and the Communist USSR and its allies.

His score: 744.

President Eisenhower 1959

4th Theodore Roosevelt

One of two Roosevelt presidents to make the list, Theodore was America’s youngest ever president, only taking the role after the assassination of President William McKinley. This Democrat and former New York governor is known for his progressive agenda and for overseeing the construction of the Panama Canal.

His score: 807. He also comes in second place for the criterion of public persuasion.

3rd – Franklin D. Roosevelt

America’s longest-serving president, FDR is often ranked highly as one of the country’s most popular presidents. He is known for the transformative “New Deal” economic policy, which sought offer three Rs: relief, reform and recovery. His overall score in the C-Span survey is 854, but he ranks number one on public persuasion, no doubt due to his four election wins.

Franklin Roosevelt photograph, 1940s

2nd – George Washington

Washington may have been the country’s first president, but he fails to make the top spot on this list. With an overall score of 867, he ranks first in the areas of economic management, moral authority and performance within context of the times. Washington was elected without opposition in 1788, and served two full terms, setting the two-term precedent before it was made law after FDR’s death.

1st – Abraham Lincoln

Republican Abraham Lincoln ranks as America’s number one president. The C-Span survey also puts him in first place in four key areas: crisis leadership, administrative skills, vision and pursued equal justice for all. His lowest ranking is relations with congress (4th).

Lincoln was president during the civil war, and was known for his strong opposition to slavery, which led to the 13th amendment, which made slavery illegal in 1865. He is also known for the Gettysburg address, in which he called for a “new birth of freedom”.

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial

Where do Reagan and Obama fit in?

The US’s most recent Democratic president was given an overall ranking of 12th, putting him firmly in the top third of the table. Meanwhile, actor-turned-governor-turned-president Ronald Regan is rated as the 9th best performing president, putting him one notch above Lyndon B. Johnson and one behind John F. Kennedy.

The full results of the 2017 C-Span survey of historians can be viewed here.