Ranking the President’s of the United States can be a very complex endeavor – however the Siena Research Institute does it every few years or so. Their most recent results came out in 2010. They typically survey a large number of historians and politicos and ask them to rate the presidents on 20 different categories on a scale of 1 to 5. They then weigh these categories to come up with the overall result and compare.
Despite my lack of knowledge about President Wilson, he appears to fall near the top of the pack in every incarnation of this survey – for 2010 he is overall ranked #8 (2 positions lower than where he sat for the prior 28 years!). I guess those 14 points really made an impact! Let’s take a look at where he fell in each category:
Background (family, education, experience): 8th
Party Leadership: 8th
Communication Ability (speaking, writing): 9th
Relationship with Congress: 16th
Court Appointments: 8th
Handling of US Economy: 8th
Ability to Compromise: 37th
Willing to Take Risks: 9th
Executive Appointments: 10th
Overall Ability: 8th
Domestic Accomplishments: 9th
Executive Ability: 10th
Foreign Policy Accomplishments: 10th
Leadership Ability: 12th
Avoid Crucial Mistakes: 29th
Your Present Overall View: 10th
Overall Ranking: 8th
In so many of these categories Wilson ranked 8th, 9th, or 10th – at least it is consistent! There are 4 categories that really stand out to me from the above that warrant some discussion. First, Intelligence. While you can’t really complain about being ranked 4th overall, I find it hard to believe that he is 4th, behind Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln in that order. Wilson was the most educated President up through his time for sure – he was the only president to have held a doctorate degree! While I can’t disagree that Jefferson and crew were smart, I would have truly expected Wilson to rank first. Second and Third, Communication Ability and Relationship with Congress. Again, while these aren’t bad, I think they could have been better. Wilson was known for his speeches – he was one of the few presidents to regularly use the special room at the Capitol to meet with Congressmen and was the first in QUITE some time to actually give his State of the Union in person to Congress. Finally, Foreign Policy Accomplishments. There was such uproar when Wilson went to Europe to work on the peace accord following the end of WWI – because he was to leave the country for such a lengthy period of time. While the USA did not end up ratifying his League of Nations, much of the peace stipulations that Wilson instigated were signed and implemented.
What do you think of these rankings – agree/disagree? Do you think Wilson should be in the top 10?
Data obtained from the 2010 Siena Research Institute's 5th Presidential Expert Poll. 2010.
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