Political Science Professor At Boise State Co-Authors Survey Of Presidential Greatness

Feb 20, 2018

A survey of members of the American Political Science Association ranked Donald Trump last among the presidents for overall greatness. Topping the list were Lincoln, Washington and FDR.
Credit Darryl Smith / Flickr

A new survey conducted among the nation’s political scientists looking at presidential greatness is out. The study, getting national attention, was co-produced by a Boise State faculty member.

There are no surprises among the top five greatest presidents; it’s the same gang from the last time the survey was conducted in 2014. Lincoln, Washington, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and Jefferson – each a titan of the office – are the leaders for overall greatness.

Boise State political science professor Justin Vaughn is half of the team behind the survey. His co-producer is at the University of Houston. Among the surprises to come from the survey of members of the American Political Science Association: former President Obama shot up the list by 10 places to sit at eighth for overall greatness. It’s a different story for the current president.

“Donald Trump came in last,” Vaughn says. “And he beat out, by just a little bit, James Buchanan. Buchanan most well known for being president of the United States as it fell into the Civil War.”

If we judge Trump on his legislative achievements thus far, Vaughn says it wouldn’t be fair to place him at the bottom of the list. He attributes the low position to scholars’ dissatisfaction with how Trump carries out the high office.

“He’s not led us into civil war, yet; he has not defended the institution of slavery,” Vaughn says. “He hasn’t done those kinds of things. But what he has done is behave in an extraordinarily un-presidential manner and evokes tremendous emotion from people who like him and loathe him.”

In other words, Trump is polarizing. A finding the study backs up. Trump was ranked the “most polarizing president” according to 95 of 170 respondents.

You can see the entire 2018 Presidents and Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey here.

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