Trump ranks dead last as worst US president in history, Joe Biden lands at 14 - Hindustan Times
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Donald Trump ranks dead last as worst US president in history, Joe Biden lands at 14

Feb 21, 2024 07:34 AM IST

Survey ranks Donald Trump as the worst US president, trailing even those who faced civil war challenges. Joe Biden debuts at No 14.

A survey of US presidential greatness ranked Donald Trump as the worst of all 45 presidents, behind even those who failed to prevent or heal the civil war. Adding insult to injury, the likely Republican candidate for this year’s election, Joe Biden, debuted at No 14.

Former US president Donald Trump (left) and US President Joe Biden (AFP)(AFP)
Former US president Donald Trump (left) and US President Joe Biden (AFP)(AFP)

The political scientists who conducted the survey, Justin Vaughn and Brandon Rottinghaus, wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Biden’s most important achievements may be that he rescued the presidency from Trump, resumed a more traditional style of presidential leadership and is gearing up to keep the office out of his predecessor’s hands this fall.”

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From ‘George Washington to Joe Biden’

Vaughn, from Coastal Carolina University, and Rottinghaus, of the University of Houston, surveyed 154 scholars, mostly affiliated with the American Political Science Association.

They explained their goal, saying it “was to create a ranking of presidential greatness that covered all presidents from George Washington to Joe Biden”, following similar lists they made in 2015 and 2018.

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They asked the respondents to rate each president on a scale of 0-100 for their overall greatness, with 0=failure, 50=average, and 100=great. They then calculated the average score for each president and ranked them from highest to lowest.

What the list contains

The top of the list did not change much from previous surveys – except for Trump, who was also last when he was in office.

The first place went to Abraham Lincoln, who ended slavery and led the country through the civil war. He was followed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who guided the US during the Great Depression and the second world war. The third spot belonged to George Washington, the first president, who secured independence from Britain. The next three were Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman.

Barack Obama, the first Black president and Biden’s vice-president from 2009 to 2017, rose nine places to seventh.

Vaughn and Rottinghaus also observed the effect of racial justice movements on the rankings of Andrew Jackson (from ninth in 2015 to 21st now) and Woodrow Wilson (from 10th to 15th).

“Their reputations have consistently suffered in recent years as modern politics lead scholars to assess their early 19th and 20th century presidencies ever more harshly, especially their unacceptable treatment of marginalised people,” they wrote.

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Jackson was a slave owner and a perpetrator of Native American genocide. Wilson was a victorious leader in the First World War and a founder of the League of Nations, but also a staunch racist who segregated the federal government.

Another notable change was Ulysses S Grant (from 26th in 2015 to 17th now), whose presidency was marred by corruption but whose efforts to protect the rights of freed slaves in the south, including combating the Ku Klux Klan, have earned him more respect.

Grant replaced Andrew Johnson, who was impeached after succeeding Lincoln. Johnson and James Buchanan, who preceded Lincoln and failed to avert the civil war, were both ranked higher than Trump by Vaughn and Rottinghaus.

Trump stands out as a highly controversial figure, with a thin legislative record, a refusal to concede defeat to Biden that sparked a violent assault on Congress, and a post-presidency plagued by 91 criminal charges stemming from his actions in office or on the campaign trail.

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