C-SPAN Presidential Survey

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C-SPAN has released the results of their Second Survey of Presidential Leadership. From the Survey website:

Fifty-eight historians from across the political spectrum who contributed to C-SPAN’s year long series, American Presidents: Life Portraits participated in C-SPAN’s survey. They rated the 41 men who have served in the White House on ten different qualities of presidential leadership. Results of this survey, overall rankings and each president’s scores in individual categories, are being released by C-SPAN to coincide with the February 21 observance of President’s Day…

The cable public affairs network was guided in the survey effort by a team of four historians and academics: Dr. Douglas Brinkley, Director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans; Dr. Edna Greene Medford, Associate Professor of History, Howard University; Richard Norton Smith, Director of the Gerald R. Ford Museum and Library; and Dr. John Splaine, Education professor, University of Maryland.

The four survey advisors devised a survey which asked participants to use a one (“not effective”) to ten (“very effective”) scale to rate each president on ten qualities of presidential leadership: “Public Persuasion,” “Crisis Leadership,” “Economic Management,” “Moral Authority,” “International Relations,” “Administrative Skills,” “Relations with Congress,” “Vision/Agenda Setting,” and “Pursuit of Equal Justice for All”. And, to reflect the changing role of the presidency over the course of US history, the advisory team chose as the tenth category, “Performance Within the Context of His Times.”

The survey was sent by mail in December to 87 historians and other professional observers of the presidency whose work contributed to C-SPAN’s 41 week biography series, American Presidents. Fifty-eight agreed to participate. Survey responses were tabulated by averaging all the responses in any given category for each president. Each of the ten categories were given equal weighting in the total scores. Overseeing the tabulation were Robert Kennedy, C-SPAN CFO and Dr. Robert Browning, a political scientist who serves as director of the C-SPAN archives.

The surveys provide an interesting snapshot of how a particular president is viewed at a particular time. For example, President George W. Bush is number 36 on the list. Will his position rise over time or decline? Back when the first poll was taken in 2000, President Clinton was ranked 21st. Today he has risen to 15th, placing him ahead of John Adams, James Madison, and John Quincy Adams. Time will tell with Bush as well.

Survey results here. Comparison between 2000 and 2009 is here. A list of historians who participated in the survey is here.

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