Donald Trump’s presidency is now behind us. But the debate over how bad a president he was has only just begun.
A new Pew poll sheds some light on how Trump’s presidency currently ranks – and the returns are not great for the billionaire businessman. A total of 53% of those polled say that Trump was either a “terrible” (41%) or “poor” (12%) president, while 35% call him either “great” (18%) or “good” (17%).
As you might expect, how you feel about Trump’s presidency is largely dependent on the party with which you identify. Almost 9 in 10 Democrats say Trump was a “terrible” (72%) or “poor” (17%) president. More than 6 in 10 Republicans call Trump a “great” (37%) or “good” (36%) president.
While it’s a bit early to draw conclusions about Trump’s legacy and how history will remember him, this poll is far from the only evidence that suggests that the 45th President may wind up toward the bottom of rankings of the 44 men who have held the office. (Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th president, and these rankings don’t yet count President Joe Biden.)
In 2019, Siena College released its latest rankings, the result of the combined views of 159 presidential scholars who rated each of the presidents on 20 different aspects of the job. (The categories range from “integrity” to “willing to take risks” to “luck.”) In those rankings, Trump placed third to last – behind only James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson.
The other major recent study of best (and worst) presidents came in 2018 from Brandon Rottinghaus from the University of Houston and Justin S. Vaughn of Boise State University. (Known as the “Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey,” this one polled 170 members of the American Political Science Association.)
Trump ranked dead last in this survey, trailing Buchanan, William Henry Harrison, Franklin Pierce and Johnson, respectively. Broken out by the relative ideology of the panel, Trump fared little better. Among self-identified conservatives, Trump was ranked as the 40th best president. (Buchanan was conservatives’ choice as worst president.) Among moderates and liberals in the survey, Trump was ranked dead last.
Now, it’s worth noting that how you are perceived in the immediate aftermath of your presidency is not always how your legacy settles. (George H.W. Bush’s time in office is far more favorably regarded now than it was when he lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, for example.)
The Point: Trump has long made clear that he is acutely interested in how he will be remembered. And he will not be happy with the early returns.