WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Former President Bill Clinton jumped into the upper echelon of greatest U.S. Presidents in a new survey placing him as 8th on the list of best presidents of all time.
The political scientist survey was conducted by Justin Vaughn of Boise State University and Brandon Rottinghaus of the University of Houston. The survey is the first in three years among presidential scholars regarding great presidents, and Bill Clinton’s first leap into the top 10 of all time.
“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 wrote in The Washington Post. “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.”
Asked which president should be added to Mount Rushmore, Franklin Roosevelt was the overwhelming favorite. Eisenhower, who also first cracked the top 10 alongside Clinton this year, was the next highest choice for Rushmore and Ronald Reagan also garnered a 5 percent backing to be added to the South Dakota landmark.
The worst presidents left James Buchanan at the bottom of the survey, joined by Warren Harding, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce and William Harrison. Similar to past presidential rankings, those with short terms fared poorly.
John F. Kennedy was placed as the most overrated president, with Reagan and Andrew Jackson placing behind him. Americans and scholars differ on their view of Kennedy as the survey suggests he “looms larger in the public mind than most scholars.”
The most underrated presidents were Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush and Truman. The survey authors write in the Post that the top 10 presidents all successfully managed international conflicts and were often “consensus-builders.”
President Obama received a more mixed view in this year’s survey. Obama ranked 18th overall and is in the middle of the pack for presidents in the modern era (those since FDR). He ranks behind Clinton, Eisenhower, Reagan, Johnson, Kennedy and George H.W. Bush.
Behind his predecessor George W. Bush (who ranked 35th), President Obama was considered the most polarizing president – a characteristic the survey authors point to as a modern trend.
The survey was conducted by reaching out to 391 members of the American Political Science Association’s Presidents & Executive Politics section. One-hundred-sixty-two surveys were conducted online between May and November 2014.