U.S. presidents are evaluated in many ways, and this fascinating, timely and unique 2-part program will discuss nearly all of them. The major characteristics that academic and public polls use vary from survey to survey, but the main standards remain consistent. It is important to keep in mind that time changes what people consider critical characteristics, and presidential rankings reflect this. For example, early in U.S. history, the United States was isolationist, so foreign policy wasn’t a factor in presidential evaluations. Foreign policy became much more important in the 20th century. Below are some of the other factors that will be discussed in this fascinating program:
Leadership skills are necessary for a president to succeed. The more skills possessed, the more likely Congress will pass their policies. This is one way that presidents are judged and evaluated. The U.S. public looks to presidents as their political and economic leaders. They are held responsible for the political and economic climate, whether times are good or bad.
The way presidents react to major foreign crises – such as a war or a terrorist attack – greatly affects their standing with the public and their rankings in the polls. Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt – two presidents who always rank in the top five – rank high mainly because of their crisis-management skills. Lyndon Johnson, on the other hand, couldn’t deal with the conflict in Vietnam. This inability lowers his ranking, despite his major domestic accomplishments.
Of course, the attributes of character and integrity are important when judging presidents. A president who promotes corruption, lies to the public, or is involved in scandals will obviously be ranked lower than an honest president. President Nixon single-handedly destroyed his presidency and his place in history with the Watergate scandal. The ranking of Donald Trump, who left office earlier this year, will almost certainly be affected by character and integrity, as well.
Robert Watson is an award-winning author, professor, historian, and analyst for numerous media outlets. He has published over forty books on history and politics, five works of fiction, and hundreds of scholarly journal articles, book chapters, and reference essays. He also serves as the series editor for the scholarly book anthology on the American presidency published by the State University of New York and as the editor of The American Presidents and American First Ladies. He serves as a distinguished Professor of American History, Avron Fogelman Eminent Research Professor, Director of Project Civitas at Lynn University, and as Senior Fellow at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship.