January 17, 2011 / 4:02 PM / 8 years ago

FDR tops rankings of U.S. presidents: UK survey

LONDON (Reuters) - Franklin D. Roosevelt, who steered the U.S. economy through the Great Depression and World War Two, has come out on top of the first survey of presidential performance by UK academics.

A portrait of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served from 1933-1945. REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout

The poll was published by the United States Presidency Center (USPC) of the Institute for the Study of Americas on Monday.

Of the 40 presidents included in the survey, Roosevelt, who held office between 1933 and 1945, ranked first in three of the five assessment categories: vision and agenda setting, domestic leadership, and foreign policy.

“It is ... likely that Roosevelt’s stock rose because the poll was conducted against the background of the worst economic troubles since the 1930s,” said Iwan Morgan, the USPC’s director.

George Washington (1789-1797) was placed first in the category for moral authority, while Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) had the legacy with the most positive historical significance.

Recent presidents fared badly compared to the earliest officeholders.

Of the five who held the top job between 1977 and 2009 only Ronald Reagan made the top 10. In contrast, two of the nation’s first five presidents — George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — were ranked third and fourth respectively.

George W. Bush, who presided over power during the unpopular Iraq war, came in the bottom 10, but British academics gave Barack Obama a positive interim assessment: he would have ranked 8th if he had been included fully in the poll.

Bill Clinton, who has fared well in recent U.S. polls, was held in lower esteem by British academics. A very low rating for moral authority dragged Clinton to 19th place in the UK survey, while the recent financial crisis took the shine off his economic legacy.

A detailed breakdown of the survey’s results can be found at the following link from 1700 GMT on Monday:

www.americas.sas.ac.uk/research/USPC.html

The top 10 performing presidents are as follows:

1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945)

2. Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

3. George Washington (1789-1797)

4. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)

5. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)

6. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

7. Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)

8. Ronald Wilson Reagan (1981-1989)

9. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

10. Dwight David Eisenhower (1953-1961)

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Peter Bohan

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