(STACKER) — Since George Washington was sworn in as the country’s first president in 1789, his presidential successors have made many integral and difficult decisions to help shape this country. Civil and international wars, economic crises, and deep-rooted bigotry are just a few major installments our presidents have had to tackle. It’s common to debate the efficacy, personalities, and politics of these office-holders during their terms, and opinions run far and wide many years later when analyzing past performance.

Despite these increasingly impossible expectations, some presidents have certainly made more of a mark than others. To show you how they line up, Stacker drew on C-SPAN’s most recent June 2021 ranking of 25 U.S. presidents.

#25. Grover Cleveland

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– 22nd, 24th president (March 4, 1885-March 4, 1889; March 4, 1893)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 523
— Political persuasion score: 55.5 (#20)
— Crisis leadership score: 51.8 (#24)
— Economic management score: 50.0 (#22)
— Moral authority score: 53.5 (#25)
— International relations score score: 53.8 (#24)
— Administrative skills score: 58.3 (#23)
— Congressional relations score: 51.6 (#25)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 52.2 (#22)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 42.3 (#29)
— Performance within context of the times score: 53.8 (#25)

Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, and the only Democrat to win in the stretch of Republican electees that ran from Lincoln in 1860 to Taft in 1913. In office, he stayed out of foreign affairs and tried to decrease government spending, relying heavily on his veto power. He lowered protective tariffs, but this move cost him the election of 1888.

During his second term, Cleveland had to deal with the 1893 financial crisis, which didn’t subside until 1896. While he ranked moderately well for his political persuasion (he strengthened the executive branch of government), he rated lowest for his pursuit of equal justice or lack thereof. He was not a proponent of equal rights for African Americans or women’s voting rights and felt that Native Americans should assimilate into society.

#24. Calvin Coolidge

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– 30th president (Aug. 2, 1923-March 4, 1929)
– Political party: Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 535
— Political persuasion score: 52.9 (#21)
— Crisis leadership score: 49.1 (#27)
— Economic management score: 56.0 (#21)
— Moral authority score: 60.4 (#18)
— International relations score score: 52.0 (#27)
— Administrative skills score: 59.6 (#21)
— Congressional relations score: 57.4 (#15)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 48.5 (#27)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 44.3 (#24)
— Performance within context of the times score: 55.2 (#24)

“Silent Cal,” as he was nicknamed, took office when Warren Harding passed away halfway through his term. Calvin Coolidge worked to rectify the corruption that occurred under the previous administration, standing for traditionalism and respectability in a decade of substantial social and technological change. But this approach also involved abstaining from passing new legislation and facilitating reform.

He cut taxes and limited government spending and economic policies that ultimately contributed to the 1929 stock market crash. Coolidge may have ranked decently for his congressional relations, but he ranked low for crisis leadership, international relations, agenda-setting, and the pursuit of justice. He did nothing to help struggling farmers, let the U.S. become unhealthily involved in Latin American affairs, limited the entry of European immigrants into the U.S., and kept quiet during controversies like the Scopes Trial.

#23. William Howard Taft

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– 27th president (March 4, 1909-March 4, 1913)
– Political party: Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 543
— Political persuasion score: 47.3 (#28)
— Crisis leadership score: 50.0 (#26)
— Economic management score: 58.3 (#19)
— Moral authority score: 59.3 (#22)
— International relations score score: 57.2 (#20)
— Administrative skills score: 62.6 (#15)
— Congressional relations score: 54.6 (#20)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 49.4 (#26)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 48.8 (#19)
— Performance within context of the times score: 55.2 (#23)

During his presidency, William Howard Taft dismantled many trusts and supported amendments calling for federal income taxes and publicly elected senators. However, he angered Progressives by passing the Payne-Aldrich Act in an attempt to lower tariffs, which proved ineffective. He also ticked off both Progressives and Teddy Roosevelt when he made Richard Ballinger secretary of the interior, having rebuffed Roosevelt’s friend Gifford Pinchot.

The situation ultimately caused a divide within the Republican Party—and between Taft and Roosevelt, who were once friends. Nearly a decade after leaving office, President Warren Harding made Taft chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. While Taft’s administrative skills were on point, he received low marks for his political persuasion—his domestic decisions did not jibe with many Americans.

#22. Andrew Jackson

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– 7th president (March 4, 1829-March 4, 1837)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 568
— Political persuasion score: 78.6 (#8)
— Crisis leadership score: 66.5 (#13)
— Economic management score: 49.3 (#25)
— Moral authority score: 46.3 (#32)
— International relations score score: 55.5 (#23)
— Administrative skills score: 53.5 (#27)
— Congressional relations score: 51.9 (#24)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 74.1 (#10)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 30.0 (#39)
— Performance within context of the times score: 62.8 (#19)

Andrew Jackson’s bold personality and tendency to veto congressional decisions sparked two new political parties at the time: Jackson’s supporters were known as Democrats, and those who opposed him became the Whig Party. The largest issue between the parties arose when Jackson attacked the Second Bank of the United States and eventually charged it with unjust economic privilege.

Another major issue came about when Jackson opposed the South Carolina legislature when it tried to nullify existing tariffs. He sent armed forces to South Carolina, but they eventually complied, and Jackson got credit for keeping the Union intact in a moment of crisis. He earned his rank due to his powers of political persuasion; his views toward the bank and his general support of states’ rights made him popular among American voters.

#21. George H.W. Bush

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– 41st president (Jan. 20, 1989-Jan. 20, 1993)
– Political party: Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 585
— Political persuasion score: 50.1 (#25)
— Crisis leadership score: 68.9 (#10)
— Economic management score: 49.8 (#23)
— Moral authority score: 63.1 (#15)
— International relations score score: 74.7 (#8)
— Administrative skills score: 63.5 (#13)
— Congressional relations score: 55.1 (#17)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 48.0 (#28)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 52.0 (#15)
— Performance within context of the times score: 59.7 (#21)

When he assumed the presidency in 1988, George H.W. Bush faced a great deal of political change. The Cold War finally saw its end, the Soviet Union disbanded, and the Berlin Wall fell. Bush did not interfere in these foreign affairs, but had to take point when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. He gained the support of the United Nations, U.S. citizens, and Congress to send 425,000 American soldiers to Iraq in order to liberate Kuwait via warfare. Bush’s decision also gleaned backlash from many Americans, who strongly condemned the resulting damage to Iraq and Kuwait. Nonetheless, he earned his ranking for his approach to international relations.

#20. Ulysses S. Grant

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– 18th president (March 4, 1869-March 4, 1877)
– Political party: Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 590
— Political persuasion score: 61.9 (#18)
— Crisis leadership score: 63.2 (#16)
— Economic management score: 47.5 (#28)
— Moral authority score: 60.8 (#17)
— International relations score score: 61.5 (#18)
— Administrative skills score: 46.1 (#36)
— Congressional relations score: 56.7 (#16)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 58.1 (#21)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 71.4 (#6)
— Performance within context of the times score: 63.1 (#16)

This Civil War general strove to peacefully reunite the North and South after the destruction of the war and to ensure rights for freed enslaved people. Ulysses S. Grant saw the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which gave Black people the right to vote. But his administration faced several scandals, including lingering damage from the Credit Mobilier scandal and a tax fraud engagement involving federal employees. While Grant himself was never under investigation, he did hire corrupt government workers. He received decent marks for political persuasion and moral authority but ranked lowest for his administrative skills.

#19. Bill Clinton

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– 42nd president (Jan. 20, 1993-Jan. 20, 2001)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 594
— Political persuasion score: 73.4 (#10)
— Crisis leadership score: 57.7 (#20)
— Economic management score: 73.6 (#5)
— Moral authority score: 30.0 (#38)
— International relations score score: 58.7 (#19)
— Administrative skills score: 59.4 (#22)
— Congressional relations score: 52.2 (#23)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 60.2 (#19)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 66.6 (#8)
— Performance within context of the times score: 61.9 (#20)

The first baby boomer to take office, Bill Clinton passed positive domestic legislation, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Violence Against Women Act, anti-gun violence bills, and educational reform. He signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, achieved a federal budget surplus, and launched airstrikes against Iraq’s nuclear weapons programs.

In his second term, the House of Representatives impeached Clinton due to his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but he was ultimately found not guilty. He ranks #19 for his economic management—under his presidency, the U.S. experienced low unemployment rates, technology was thriving, and he realized the first federal budget surplus in decades. His pursuit of equal justice also can’t be ignored.

#18. James K. Polk

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– 11th president (March 4, 1845-March 4, 1849)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 599
— Political persuasion score: 65.8 (#13)
— Crisis leadership score: 66.7 (#12)
— Economic management score: 60.0 (#16)
— Moral authority score: 48.6 (#28)
— International relations score score: 62.0 (#17)
— Administrative skills score: 66.8 (#9)
— Congressional relations score: 60.7 (#13)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 72.8 (#11)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 32.3 (#35)
— Performance within context of the times score: 63.1 (#17)

This dark horse president was responsible for the acquisition of the Oregon Territory from the British, as well as California and the southwest in the Mexican-American War. Domestically, James Polk lowered tariffs and made improvements to the U.S. banking system. His crisis leadership and his agenda-setting, according to CBS News, earned him his rank—he got the country through war and expanded its geographic area in the process.

#17. John Quincy Adams

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– 6th president (March 4, 1825-March 4, 1829)
– Political party: Democratic-Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 603
— Political persuasion score: 49.4 (#26)
— Crisis leadership score: 54.0 (#23)
— Economic management score: 61.0 (#14)
— Moral authority score: 69.9 (#10)
— International relations score score: 70.2 (#10)
— Administrative skills score: 61.9 (#17)
— Congressional relations score: 49.0 (#29)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 62.5 (#17)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 66.0 (#10)
— Performance within context of the times score: 58.8 (#22)

John Quincy Adams faced congressional backlash during his time in office. Andrew Jackson, the opposing presidential candidate to Adams, thought he had won the seat unfairly, so Jackson’s congressional supporters gave him grief. Adams proposed the creation of interstate roads and canals, as well as the institution of a national university, but congressional Jacksonians thwarted many of these efforts.

Adams did see the construction of the Erie Canal during his presidency, which facilitated the transportation of grain and whiskey to the east. He served only one term but did go on to be a member of the House. Adams places at #17 due to his pursuit of equal justice, and by that token, his moral authority; he strove to abolish slavery and provide Native Americans with Western land and was a strong proponent of free speech.

#16. James Madison

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– 4th president (March 4, 1809-March 4, 1817)
– Political party: Democratic-Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 604
— Political persuasion score: 60.5 (#19)
— Crisis leadership score: 60.4 (#19)
— Economic management score: 57.1 (#20)
— Moral authority score: 68.5 (#12)
— International relations score score: 56.0 (#22)
— Administrative skills score: 62.0 (#16)
— Congressional relations score: 60.9 (#12)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 66.4 (#15)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 47.1 (#21)
— Performance within context of the times score: 65.3 (#12)

James Madison most famously wrote the first drafts of the Constitution and co-wrote the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. A couple of years later, he took point on writing the Bill of Rights. Madison reluctantly led the country through the War of 1812. Though Americans considered the war successful due in part to their victory at the Battle of New Orleans, scholars assert that the relationship between the U.S. and Britain did not really change after the war. Madison’s moral authority won him his rank—he took measures to make sure the government made decisions fairly and acted in the interest of the people.

#15. John Adams

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– 2nd president (March 4, 1825-March 4, 1829)
– Political party: Federalist
– Overall C-SPAN score: 609
— Political persuasion score: 51.4 (#22)
— Crisis leadership score: 62.2 (#18)
— Economic management score: 63.9 (#10)
— Moral authority score: 71.6 (#8)
— International relations score score: 66.2 (#14)
— Administrative skills score: 61.2 (#19)
— Congressional relations score: 52.9 (#22)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 59.2 (#20)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 57.3 (#13)
— Performance within context of the times score: 63.0 (#18)

John Adams quickly became involved in the war between Britain and France upon George Washington’s departure from the White House. When he attempted to negotiate a treaty with France, the French foreign minister demanded a bribe, which Adams refused. The ordeal became known as the XYZ Affair and led to Adams’ popularity. At least until he enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts, which allowed the government to deport threatening aliens and arrest those who disagreed with the government. Adams ranked #15 for his moral authority and approach to international affairs—he attempted to resolve the conflict between France and Britain peacefully, and in the end, succeeded.

#14. William McKinley

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– 25th president (March 4, 1897-Sept. 14, 1901)
– Political party: Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 612
— Political persuasion score: 64.2 (#15)
— Crisis leadership score: 63.4 (#15)
— Economic management score: 62.1 (#13)
— Moral authority score: 59.4 (#21)
— International relations score score: 64.2 (#16)
— Administrative skills score: 64.2 (#12)
— Congressional relations score: 65.2 (#10)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 62.3 (#18)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 43.8 (#26)
— Performance within context of the times score: 63.4 (#14)

As president, William McKinley guided the country through the Spanish-American War with the intention of achieving Cuban independence. The U.S. came away from the conflict having acquired Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam. McKinley’s audacious approach to foreign intervention allowed the U.S. to be more active in international affairs. Domestically, he enacted the Dingley Tariff Act, the highest protective tariff in history, with the intention of building domestic industry. He was shot and killed by an anarchist not long into his second term. He gained the highest ratings for congressional relations; his work with Congress brought about a tariff that led to rich industrial growth.

#13. Woodrow Wilson

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– 28th president (March 4, 1913-March 4, 1921)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 617
— Political persuasion score: 72.4 (#12)
— Crisis leadership score: 67.1 (#11)
— Economic management score: 62.1 (#12)
— Moral authority score: 59.6 (#19)
— International relations score score: 67.8 (#13)
— Administrative skills score: 64.4 (#11)
— Congressional relations score: 55.0 (#18)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 75.5 (#9)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 30.2 (#37)
— Performance within context of the times score: 63.2 (#15)

Known as the leader of the Progressive Movement, Woodrow Wilson enacted a variety of reforms during his presidency, including new tax legislation, the prohibition of child labor, unjust business practices, and the confining of railroad workers to an eight-hour workday. In 1917, he proposed to Congress that the U.S. finally enter World War I by declaring war on Germany. The following year, he drew up a proposal to end the war between Germany and the Allied Powers—the Versailles Treaty—but it did not pass the Senate. His agenda-setting ability won him his rank, considering the positive legislation he passed domestically.

#12. James Monroe

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– 5th president (March 4, 1817-March 4, 1825)
– Political party: Democratic-Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 643
— Political persuasion score: 63.5 (#17)
— Crisis leadership score: 64.9 (#14)
— Economic management score: 59.9 (#17)
— Moral authority score: 63.2 (#14)
— International relations score score: 78.4 (#6)
— Administrative skills score: 66.5 (#10)
— Congressional relations score: 66.9 (#9)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 68.6 (#14)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 43.9 (#25)
— Performance within context of the times score: 67.8 (#11)

Although James Monroe billed his presidency as the “Era of Good Feelings,” this promise didn’t exactly hold up. The issue of slavery presented a problem—the Northern states had done away with slavery, but the South still condoned it. The Missouri Compromise let Missouri join the U.S. as a slave state, and Maine as a free state. Monroe ran into another issue when he secured the purchase of Florida in 1819—four years of economic troubles known as the Panic of 1819. Most famously, Monroe issued his eponymous doctrine, which warned European countries against colonizing those in the western hemisphere. He ranked highest for his international relations skills, as evidenced by the successful prevention of further Western colonization.

#11. Lyndon B. Johnson

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– 36th president (Nov. 22, 1963-Jan. 20, 1969)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 654
— Political persuasion score: 64.1 (#16)
— Crisis leadership score: 57.5 (#21)
— Economic management score: 58.5 (#18)
— Moral authority score: 54.8 (#24)
— International relations score score: 39.7 (#39)
— Administrative skills score: 68.9 (#7)
— Congressional relations score: 80.7 (#2)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 78.1 (#8)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 86.2 (#2)
— Performance within context of the times score: 65.0 (#13)

Lyndon Johnson took office upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. He first carried out the legislation that JFK planned to enact when he died, which included an amended civil rights bill and tax cuts. But he was known best for his Great Society program, which he proposed to Congress in 1965. The program encompassed things like educational aid, improvements in medicine, environmental conservation, the addition of Medicare, crime prevention, and equal voting rights. He also helmed the space program that sent astronauts to the moon in 1969. He ranked highest for his congressional relations and pursuit of equal justice, which were wrapped up in his Great Society program and civil rights legislation.

#10. Barack Obama

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– 44th president (Jan. 20, 2009-Jan. 20, 2017)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 664
— Political persuasion score: 76.3 (#9)
— Crisis leadership score: 62.8 (#17)
— Economic management score: 64.6 (#9)
— Moral authority score: 75.5 (#6)
— International relations score score: 56.7 (#21)
— Administrative skills score: 63.3 (#14)
— Congressional relations score: 46.9 (#32)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 71.5 (#12)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 78.2 (#3)
— Performance within context of the times score: 68.2 (#10)

Barack Obama was the first African American man to serve as president of the U.S. During his campaign and time in office, he vowed to bring about positive change. He set out to improve American race relations, but several instances of police officers arresting and killing Black people occurred under his administration, as well as race-related protests.

Obama helped to get the economy in better shape in the wake of the 2008 recession, and generally had positive relationships with foreign countries. He passed the Affordable Care Act, retooled No Child Left Behind, and overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, legalizing gay marriage nationwide. As president, Obama was criticized for a number of matters throughout his time in the White House, including failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform. He comes in at #10 for his pursuit of equal justice and moral authority, considering he instituted national health care and fought for minority rights.

#9. Ronald Reagan

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– 40th president (Jan. 20, 1981-Jan. 20, 1989)
– Political party: Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 681
— Political persuasion score: 89.1 (#5)
— Crisis leadership score: 69.0 (#9)
— Economic management score: 60.5 (#15)
— Moral authority score: 65.4 (#13)
— International relations score score: 73.8 (#9)
— Administrative skills score: 52.1 (#30)
— Congressional relations score: 68.4 (#8)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 84.0 (#5)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 46.0 (#22)
— Performance within context of the times score: 73.0 (#8)

This actor-turned-politician brought about economic growth, created jobs, sought to reduce government spending, and bolstered national defense forces, but this led to more government debt. Ronald Reagan’s economic policies were known collectively as Reaganomics. He carried out major tax reforms that were believed by many to primarily benefit the wealthy. His ratings in political persuasion, crisis leadership, and increasingly positive views of his economic management earned him ninth on the list. Under Reagan, the U.S. experienced its longest stretch of economic prosperity during a peaceful time, and he made positive steps toward peace as the Cold War approached its end.

#8. John F. Kennedy

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– 35th president (Jan. 20, 1961-Nov. 22, 1963)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 699
— Political persuasion score: 84.8 (#6)
— Crisis leadership score: 73.9 (#7)
— Economic management score: 67.9 (#7)
— Moral authority score: 61.8 (#16)
— International relations score score: 65.7 (#15)
— Administrative skills score: 61.7 (#18)
— Congressional relations score: 62.0 (#11)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 80.0 (#7)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 71.0 (#7)
— Performance within context of the times score: 70.0 (#9)

In office, John F. Kennedy orchestrated a CIA-centric attempt to overthrow the Cuban government, which ultimately failed. He took military measures to thwart the Cuban Missile Crisis, which may have led to all-out nuclear war, and he set out to establish his New Frontier plan, which involved tax reform, positive labor and education amendments, and big pushes for civil rights legislation—but it never became fully realized. He gained the highest marks in political persuasion—he fought hard for labor, education, and civil rights. His work in crisis leadership should also be noted, considering he helped decelerate the nuclear arms race.

#7. Thomas Jefferson

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– 3rd president (March 4, 1801-March 4, 1809)
– Political party: Democratic-Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 704
— Political persuasion score: 79.6 (#7)
— Crisis leadership score: 70.2 (#8)
— Economic management score: 62.4 (#11)
— Moral authority score: 69.1 (#11)
— International relations score score: 69.2 (#11)
— Administrative skills score: 72.1 (#6)
— Congressional relations score: 73.0 (#5)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 83.8 (#6)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 47.9 (#20)
— Performance within context of the times score: 77.1 (#6)

Before Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, political conflict arose between Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, which led to the formation of two parties: the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans, which Jefferson eventually helmed. As president, Jefferson decreased the national debt, sent naval troops to combat Barbary pirates who interfered with American commerce in the Mediterranean and secured the Louisiana territory from Napoleon in 1803, which encompassed 15 current states. Jefferson won a high ranking for his treatment of congressional relations and agenda-setting—he was, after all, the main author of the Declaration of Independence—and had to work closely with Congress to gain the approval of the Louisiana Purchase Treaty.

#6. Harry S. Truman

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– 33rd president (April 12, 1945-Jan. 20, 1953)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 713
— Political persuasion score: 65.5 (#14)
— Crisis leadership score: 80.1 (#5)
— Economic management score: 67.6 (#8)
— Moral authority score: 71.3 (#9)
— International relations score score: 78.3 (#7)
— Administrative skills score: 68.0 (#8)
— Congressional relations score: 59.6 (#14)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 69.8 (#13)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 75.3 (#4)
— Performance within context of the times score: 77.4 (#5)

Harry Truman found himself in the presidential hot seat upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. He made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima at the end of World War II and created programs to expand Social Security, introduce fair employment, and clean up slums, known collectively as the Fair Deal. He called for congressional aid for Turkey and Greece when the Soviet Union threatened to overtake the two countries, otherwise known as the Truman Doctrine. He also attempted to keep violence to a minimum when North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950. It’s no surprise that his marks in crisis leadership and the pursuit of justice for all gleaned him sixth place, considering his approach to domestic and foreign affairs.

#5. Dwight D. Eisenhower

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– 34th president (Jan. 20, 1953-Jan. 20, 1961)
– Political party: Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 734
— Political persuasion score: 73.3 (#11)
— Crisis leadership score: 77.3 (#6)
— Economic management score: 72.3 (#6)
— Moral authority score: 81.4 (#4)
— International relations score score: 78.5 (#5)
— Administrative skills score: 76.1 (#4)
— Congressional relations score: 72.4 (#6)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 64.8 (#16)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 61.5 (#12)
— Performance within context of the times score: 76.0 (#7)

As a commanding general in the U.S. Army during WWII, Dwight Eisenhower brought his know-how in the area of foreign relations to the presidency. He took measures to lessen the impact of the Cold War, negotiated with the then-Soviet Union in the midst of the nuclear arms race, and facilitated peace at the South Korean border after years of war. Domestically, he continued the New Deal and Fair Deal policies and initiated desegregation in schools and the armed forces. It was his crisis leadership skills that notched him up to #5, and he scored highly for moral authority—the basis of his approach to crisis management.

#4. Theodore Roosevelt

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– 26th president (Sept. 14, 1901-March 4, 1909)
– Political party: Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 785
— Political persuasion score: 90.3 (#3)
— Crisis leadership score: 80.8 (#4)
— Economic management score: 75.0 (#4)
— Moral authority score: 79.3 (#5)
— International relations score score: 80.6 (#4)
— Administrative skills score: 75.0 (#5)
— Congressional relations score: 71.6 (#7)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 86.9 (#4)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 62.7 (#11)
— Performance within context of the times score: 82.5 (#4)

Theodore Roosevelt entered the presidency due to the assassination of President William McKinley. In office, he drove the U.S. to take a more active role in world affairs. He facilitated Panama’s secession from Colombia in order to start building the Panama Canal and won the Nobel Peace Prize for arbitrating the Russo-Japanese War. He was known for his “big stick” approach to foreign policy, in which he would negotiate peacefully, but not hesitate to use military force if need be. He ranked high for his political persuasion—he was known as the leader of the Progressive Movement, which encompassed his Square Deal program—conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection, as well as his belief that the government should do whatever it takes for the good of the people.

#3. Franklin D. Roosevelt

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– 32nd president (March 4, 1933-April 12, 1945)
– Political party: Democratic
– Overall C-SPAN score: 841
— Political persuasion score: 94.8 (#1)
— Crisis leadership score: 91.6 (#3)
— Economic management score: 75.4 (#3)
— Moral authority score: 81.8 (#3)
— International relations score score: 88.0 (#1)
— Administrative skills score: 80.7 (#3)
— Congressional relations score: 80.5 (#3)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 92.0 (#3)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 66.2 (#9)
— Performance within context of the times score: 89.6 (#3)

Over the course of his three terms in office, Franklin D. Roosevelt is most famous for instituting the New Deal to combat the effects of the Depression and leading the country through WWII—no easy feats by any means. He famously said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” as part of his Fireside Chats, which were radio broadcasts given to comfort the public during the Depression. He formed the New Deal Coalition, which was instrumental in reorienting American politics toward democratic tenets and establishing American Liberalism. FDR takes the third slot because of his political persuasion—he reassured the country during its worst economic crisis—and for international relations, as he guided the country through a major war. And he accomplished all of this while combating polio.

#2. George Washington

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– 1st president (April 30, 1789-March 4, 1797)
– Political party: Independent
– Overall C-SPAN score: 851
— Political persuasion score: 89.9 (#4)
— Crisis leadership score: 91.9 (#2)
— Economic management score: 80.5 (#2)
— Moral authority score: 92.7 (#2)
— International relations score score: 85.0 (#2)
— Administrative skills score: 84.0 (#2)
— Congressional relations score: 83.5 (#1)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 93.1 (#2)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 54.8 (#14)
— Performance within context of the times score: 95.6 (#2)

As the inaugural president of the U.S., George Washington did a stellar job of helping to lay down the foundation of the country. Not only did he serve as commander-in-chief during the Revolutionary War, but he also established the Cabinet system of governing (although, his Cabinet members had conflicting views), and communicated well with department leaders. But in the midst of all this, Washington had to tackle some problems—some of the states hadn’t yet joined the Union, the French Revolution sparked political turmoil in which Washington became involved, and America’s army was in bad shape.

Washington’s moral authority, economic management, and performance within the context of the times earned him a second-place ranking. He staunchly abided by the laws of the constitution, successfully thwarted the Whiskey Rebellion, and navigated the presidency when the country was in its infancy.

#1. Abraham Lincoln

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– 16th president (March 4, 1861-April 15, 1865)
– Political party: Republican
– Overall C-SPAN score: 897
— Political persuasion score: 91.5 (#2)
— Crisis leadership score: 96.4 (#1)
— Economic management score: 81.9 (#1)
— Moral authority score: 95.2 (#1)
— International relations score score: 82.8 (#3)
— Administrative skills score: 86.7 (#1)
— Congressional relations score: 78.9 (#4)
— Vision/ability to set an agenda score: 96.4 (#1)
— Pursued equal justice for all score: 90.9 (#1)
— Performance within context of the times score: 96.5 (#1)

Abraham Lincoln successfully led the country through the Civil War and paved the way for the abolition of slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. He is perhaps most noted for delivering the Gettysburg Address, which begins with the famous lines, “Four score and seven years ago,” in which he declares that all men are created equal. He died at the hands of John Wilkes Booth in 1865, who shot him during a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C.

Though Lincoln received high marks in all categories of government, historians put him at #1 because of his crisis leadership. He heralded America through the deadliest war in its history while keeping the Union intact.

Methodology

According to C-SPAN, the survey was devised by academic advisers with a 1-10 scale of “not effective” to “very effective” based on performance in 10 categories: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, congressional relations, ability to set an agenda, the pursuit of equal justice for all, and overall performance within the context of the times. In 2022, 142 respondents participated in the survey, up from 91 in 2017.