Days after celebrations honoring his bicentennial, Abraham Lincoln kept his rank as best US president, according to a survey of 65 historians that landed George W. Bush 36th out of 42 overall.
Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), the first US president George Washington (1789-1797) and New Deal architect Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) were ranked the top three out of the 42 men who have been the country's former chiefs, according to a survey by cable channel C-SPAN.
John F. Kennedy came in sixth, ahead of Ronald Reagan (10th) and Bill Clinton, who jumped to 15th from 21st during the last survey in 2000, when Lincoln also ranked first.
Of all modern presidents, Bush, who left office last month after an eight-year tenure, fared worst at 36th, nearly 10 spots behind Richard Nixon (27th), who was forced to resign in disgrace in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.
Bush scored lowest in international relations, where he ranked 41st, and in economic management, where he placed 40th. His best ranking was 24th, in having "pursued equal justice for all." He placed 25th in crisis leadership, and for his vision and agenda setting.
Reagan faired well in public persuasion, where he was propelled to third spot, from his 10th place overall.
Bill Clinton also received accolades for his public persuasion, landing a 10th spot in that category, up from 15th overall.
But presidential historians were critical of the last Democratic president's moral authority, placing him 37th, ahead of Richard Nixon (41st), but behind Bush (35th).
Jimmy Carter fell from 22nd to 25th overall, and many other presidents moved positions. The fluidity of perceptions of past presidents reflects contemporary concerns, according to Edna Medford, a survey leader and participant.
"Today's concerns shape our views of the past, be it in the area of foreign policy, managing the economy or human rights," she said in a statement.
Presidents James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce and William Henry Harrison ranked worst overall.