Everybody knows Donald Trump is a controversial president, and he has the approval ratings to prove it. But who were the best and worst presidents in American history? Each of us has our own list, based at least partly on our personal politics. But look beyond approval ratings or partisan politics, and you’ll find a lot of factors influence a president’s legacy and likability long after he leaves the White House.
To figure out which presidents are the most hated — at least by historians — C-SPAN conducted a Presidential Historians Survey. A group of almost 100 historians rated each president on 10 qualities of presidential leadership: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of the times.
Read on to check out the most hated American presidents — and to discover how Donald Trump really compares.
15. Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison starts off the list of the most hated American presidents. He landed in 30th place (out of 43 presidents) in C-SPAN’s survey. Historians gave him poor marks for his vision and ability to set an agenda, plus his ability in crisis leadership and economic management.
While reporting on Trump’s current approval ratings, the Washington Post posited, “American history is clear: Presidents who’ve lost the popular vote don’t win popular support.” That certainly proved true with Harrison. Throughout his term from 1889 to 1893, the 23rd U.S. president “battled the perception that his victory was undemocratic and illegitimate.” He was so pompous and cold that even his own party called him a “refrigerator” and a “human iceberg.” Though his party had a majority in Congress, he didn’t manage to enact either of the bills he cared about: giving federal aid to public schools and protecting black voters in the South.
Next: The last president who owned slaves while living in the White House