The following is a ranking of the 10 best and 10 worst US Presidents. It is based off what the Presidents did while in office, in terms of policy, decision making, and legacy. This does not include the overall lifetime achievements of each person on these lists. If it did, for example, men like Jackson, Grant, Eisenhower, etc. would be in different spots due to their pivotal military leadership.

The time period was also taken into account (Franklin Pierce supported slavery, that makes him much worse on a moral level by our standards today than Jimmy Carter, who is ranked as “worse” than him). We looked at the morality/practicality of the Presidents’ positions through the national zeitgeist at the time in question. However, this does not mean that we can’t judge the long term consequences of their choices, as we do below.

To be clear, this is just the opinion of SoCawlege, since there obviously is no factual rankings. We included some of our reasoning for the 10 best.

Worst:

10. Warren G Harding

9. Richard Nixon

8. Lyndon B. Johnson

7. Ulysses S. Grant

6. Franklin Pierce

5. Jimmy Carter

4. Barack Obama

3. Woodrow Wilson

2.Andrew Jackson

1. James Buchanan

Who Adds More To The Debt: Republicans or Democrats? ←

Best:

10. Calvin Coolidge

Booming economy, amazing personality, great philosophy on life. Read about him here.

9. James Madison

Oversaw the War of 1812, and at least cared about strict adherence to the constitution. Unlike many of our current leaders.

8. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Intelligent foreign policy, mixed with effective domestic policy.

7. John F. Kennedy

Strong on foreign policy, cutting taxes, civil rights, and an inspiration to the country. He encouraged us to go to the Moon, one of the best things America ever did. Here’s a great quotation on his economic philosophy:

“I believe in an America where the free enterprise system flourishes for all other systems to see and admire – where no businessman lacks either competition or credit – and where no monopoly, no racketeer, no government bureaucracy can put him out of business that he built up with his own initiative.” Source

6. James K. Polk

Do you like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California? Then you like President Polk. One of the lesser known Presidents for sure.

5. Harry Truman

Truman wrapped up WWII in the best way possible. He made the incredibly tough decision to drop the atom bomb in order to save lives. Post-war Germany and Japan were reformed in ways that prevented another conflict in the future, unlike how the end of WWI was handled. And most importantly, Truman knew to take the threat of communism seriously, like Winston Churchill did. He started off our cold war policy, and was willing to support a war in the Korean Peninsula to save half the area from devastating communism, which still plagues the North to this day. He also recognized Israel, making the US the first nation to do so. Oh, and along with congress, he controlled fiscal policy in a way which did not add much more to our already massive war debt. A booming economy followed suit. Read more here.

4. Ronald Reagan

Finishing off (for the most part) the greatest enemy America ever faced (communism), and unleashing what would become 25+ years of mostly strong economic growth is hard to beat. He was able to work with a Democratic congress to do it too, influencing their decisions on many things (although not all, like spending too much money in some areas). On top of it all, he had a sense of humor:

3. Thomas Jefferson

The Louisiana purchase is one of the best things a President has ever pushed for. The incredible amount of land we bought from France puts Jefferson over the top, however he also fought back against the Barbary pirates, showing early on in America’s life that it would not stand for attacks on its interests. Additionally, Jefferson showed a constant desire for his actions, and the actions of the federal government as a whole, to remain constitutional. Being unsure of his ability to do certain things was a healthy reaction. Too bad our leaders today don’t have that reflex.

2. George Washington

The leadership of George Washington was what the country needed at the time. A unifying political figure that transcended politics, and was officially the member of no political party (although he was in some ways a de facto Federalist). His presence helped America when it needed help the most, which got him on this list.

1. Abraham Lincoln

Yeah it’s cliche. But it’s cliche for a reason. He sacrificed his mental health, body, and ultimately his life so his country could remain unified. And, whether he intended to fully or not, his leadership helped bring an end to slavery. He is #1 for good reason:

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  • Connor Reed

    You have a top ten list without FDR or Teddy Roosevelt.

    You have Ronald Reagan listed as the 4th best President ever.

    You have Andrew Jackson as the second worst President ever. Perhaps you meant Andrew Johnson? Jackson was probably top ten.

    Barack Obama as the fourth worst of all-time? Was it the fact that he completely saved the auto industry? Or terminated Bin Laden? Or reformed Wall Street, banks, and credit card companies to prevent another recession? Was it the record number of consecutive months of jobs created? Is it because he’s cut the deficit by two-thirds? Is it that he’s improved the US’s reputation across the world (according to all polls)? Is it because he stopped the endless deaths of our military in an unjustified war? Is it because he disarmed Syria without firing a single bullet? Is it the fact that he completely turned around a failed economy? Seriously. His accomplishments can go on and on. He’s not the perfect President, but he’s nowhere near the bottom ten. You watch too much Fox.

    And George W. Bush doesn’t get a ranking? The Iraq War was arguably one of the worst decisions our country has ever made after his Administration deliberately misled the public. He turned a $200 million surplus into a $1.3 trillion deficit. He helped create today’s problems in the Middle East. He failed to pass any regulation to prevent the recession. His torture policies drew critique from every one of our allies, but he refused to stop them, and there’s no proof that they ever helped us gain any intelligence. There were 13 embassy attacks under him. He issued multiple executive orders that were found to be unconstitutional and overturned by the Supreme Court (a conservative SC), and added a lot of secrecy to the executive branch (go read some of his EO’s). He ignored warnings about OBL and that sat for seven minutes – SEVEN minutes – after being told the country was under attack (he was the only person in the world that could authorize the fighter jets to use force). You think Obama has had a lot of scandals? Ha! Bush had a new scandal every other day. In 2006 a consensus report of 16 US agencies determined that the Iraq War had actually made us less safe and increased radicalism. He took more vacation than any other POTUS in history. The Patriot Act violated his oath to office, almost every amendment of the Bill of Rights, and at least five federal laws. The ACA is actually a very good idea. Every developed country in the world uses a universal system except us. Net, 16 million people have gained insurance under it (under Bush, 8 million people lost insurance by the time he left office).

    So, no. This list is not based on any type of fact or real information. This is just a guy’s personal ranking of what he thinks a President did. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t post it.

    • Noah

      Andrew Jackson top 10? Trail of Tears, blatant disregard for rule of law in Worcester v. Georgia, largest slave-owner in the south…no sir, I don’t think he is top 10.

  • Driver Decade

    This could be very subjective. But would agree the worst U.S. presidents would be during the times of Native American genocide.