Republicans used to call Ronald Reagan the best president in US history. Now it’s Donald Trump.

February 15, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

Who has been the best president in US history? Americans appear to be thinking mostly about the latest occupants of the White House as we look ahead to Monday’s commemoration of President’s Day. In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, the most recent two former presidents receive most of the attention, with far fewer reaching back in history to name the historical figures whose February birthdays are the reason President’s Day exists at all. 

Barack Obama tops the list at 18%, just edging out Abraham Lincoln at 17%. Donald Trump comes in third at 13%, just ahead of Franklin D. Roosevelt (12%), Ronald Reagan (10%), and George Washington (9%).  

President Joe Biden was not on the list respondents saw of the 44 individuals who served as president, as he had served less than 20 days when the survey began.

Black Americans overwhelmingly name Barack Obama, the first Black President, as the best President ever (46%), followed by Abraham Lincoln at 13%, while senior citizens prioritize Lincoln (21%), FDR (16%), and Trump (16%). 

President's Day
 

The change in GOP rankings since 2018, when the last survey was conducted, is striking. In 2018, Republicans ranked Reagan first (36%), followed by Trump (10%). Now, the positions are reversed, with the percentage of Republicans who name Trump as the best President ever having tripled to 36%, twice the number who still choose Ronald Reagan (18%).

Barack Obama has maintained his support among Democrats compared to 2018 (33% to 34%), with FDR (19%) and Lincoln (17%) next. Kennedy takes fourth place among Democrats with 7% calling him the best president in history. 

Who is the worst president in American history? 

The question of worst president ever is a contest between the two most recent presidents to leave office, although twice as many Americans name Trump (46%) as Obama (24%). That was true (though not quite to the same degree) in 2018. Richard Nixon, who avoided impeachment by resigning in 1974, is a distant third at 5%.  

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll 

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between February 6 - 9, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.0% for the overall sample. 

Image: Getty