21 July 2018
US political scientists have begun to reassess Bill Clinton's presidency more positively. Photo: Reuters
US political scientists have begun to reassess Bill Clinton's presidency more positively. Photo: Reuters

Meet the highest-ranking modern US president

Bill Clinton has made a big leap in the first survey of experts in three years about great US presidents.

Clinton ranked 13th among the 43 presidents considered in a survey done by Siena College in 2010 and 19th in one done by the London-based United States Presidency Centre in 2011.

But a new survey of political scientists conducted by Justin Vaughn at Boise State University and Brandon Rottinghaus at the University of Houston puts Clinton on the list of near-great presidents, as the 8th-best president ever.

Vaughn and Rottinghaus contacted 391 members of the American Political Science Association’s presidents and executive politics section, receiving 162 responses, the National Constitution Center (a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the US Constitution) reported.

“The very top of the rankings are consistent with what similar studies have shown for years – America’s greatest Presidents are Lincoln, Washington and Franklin Roosevelt,” Vaughn said.

“What is new and noteworthy, though, is the rise of Bill Clinton as one of the greatest modern presidents and the slow sinking of Barack Obama to the bottom quartile of modern presidents.”

Clinton was the highest-ranking modern president, ahead of Ronald Reagan (11th), Lyndon Johnson (12th), John Kennedy (14th) and George H.W. Bush (17th).

Vaughn said Obama was ranked in the bottom half of modern presidents for diplomatic skills and his ability to work with Congress, and was ranked only “marginally better” for personal integrity and military skill.

“Obama’s sub-par standing on these facets of presidential greatness reflects scholars having several years of evidence to base their assessment on, rather than initial studies, where projections of hope and anticipation were still factored in,” Vaughn said.

George W. Bush came in 35th out of 43 presidents and was the fifth-most popular choice when scholars were asked to name the worst presidents.

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