NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Scholars Rank Reagan "Near Great," Clinton "Average" In Survey

November 16, 2000

In a survey undertaken by the Federalist Society and The Wall Street Journal, 78 scholars were asked to rank the 39 U.S. presidents who have served more than a few months in office. The sponsors claim it is the most politically balanced ranking of the presidents to date.

  • Three presidents -- Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt -- were accorded the status of "Great."
  • Four were pronounced "Failures" -- Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, Warren Harding and James Buchanan.
  • In addition to Reagan, "Near Great" status was conferred on Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, James Polk and Woodrow Wilson.
  • Lyndon Johnson and John Kennedy came in at the bottom of the list in the "Above Average" category.

Among Twentieth Century presidents ranked "Below Average" were Gerald Ford, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon.

The scholars ranked Ronald Reagan as the most Underrated president -- as well as the second most Overrated -- suggesting a lack of academic consensus about his presidency.

Kennedy was the most Overrated president by a wide margin.

Source: James Lindgren (Northwestern) and Steven G. Calabresi (Northwestern and the Federalist Society), "Ranking the Presidents," Wall Street Journal, November 16, 2000.


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