Trump debuts at 41st in C-SPAN presidential rankings

In the administrative skills category, Trump was ranked last among the 45 former presidents. He also fell in last in the category of moral authority, just below Buchanan — who is most widely known for his failure to prevent the Civil War. Trump fared better in the Public Persuasion category, in which he was ranked 32nd, and economic management, where he was 34th.

Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, who has advised C-SPAN on the survey since its first iteration, said one reason for Trump’s low ranking could be his 2021 impeachment, which made him the only U.S. president ever to be impeached twice.

“This year, people compared which is worse: Watergate or the Trump impeachment?,” Brinkley said in a C-SPAN press release. “The word ‘impeachment’ probably cost Nixon a few spots downward this year, and maybe Clinton too.”

Trump’s four years in office were also marked by the onset of Covid-19, his administration’s handling of which has been widely criticized, as well as the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, for which Trump has been widely blamed. Trump still maintains the disproven claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

In the overall survey, Abraham Lincoln was ranked first, as has been the case since the survey began. George Washington came in second and Franklin D. Roosevelt in third — the same former presidents comprising the top three in the list since 2000. The top nine rankings remained the same as they were in 2017, following Obama's second term.

In Obama’s climb to the top 10, his rating improved greatly in the relations with Congress category, where he jumped from 39th to 32nd. In the performed within context of times category, Obama also improved from 15th to 10th. The 44th president’s pursued equal justice for all rating remained his highest, with him sitting at third, just below Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson, for the second survey in a row.

C-SPAN noted that the category with the most change in rankings over the last 20 years was pursued equal justice for all, with Woodrow Wilson’s category ranking dropping 17 points since the first survey to this year’s.

“Despite the fact that we've become more aware of the historical implications of racial injustice in this country and we're continuing to grapple with those issues, we still have slaveholding presidents at or near the top of the list,” Howard University professor Edna Greene Medford said in the press release. Washington, still the second president on the list, enslaved people during his term. “So even though we may be a bit more enlightened about race today, we are still discounting its significance when evaluating these presidents.”

Obama's move into the group of top 10 presidents in this year's survey edged out Johnson, who fell to 11th place. Other presidents whose position dropped in this year’s survey include Gerald Ford (28th place) and Bill Clinton (19th place), while others, like Warren Harding (37th place) and Chester Arthur (30th place) moved their way up the list. Still, the rankings remained largely similar to the previous survey, taken in 2017.

The largest jump since the 2000 survey to 2021 was claimed by Ulysses S. Grant, who served during Reconstruction. Grant was ranked No. 33 in the first survey, and now stands at No. 20.

“Grant,” Brinkley said in the press release, “is having his Hamilton moment.”

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