The 2024 Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey ranked the 45 presidents from best to worst. Two New York-born presidents ranked in the Top 5 and another ranked last among the 45. NewsdayTV’s Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The only U.S. president to call Long Island his permanent home has once again secured his place in the top tier, according to a new poll that ranks all 45 presidents. 

Theodore Roosevelt, whose Sagamore Hill home in Oyster Bay is a national historic site, came in at No. 4 in the Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey released this week. Two prior polls were released in 2015 and 2018.

Abraham Lincoln, who led the United States through the Civil War and whose administration put an end to slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation, ranks first among presidents in the just-announced 2024 survey. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ranked second, George Washington third and Thomas Jefferson fifth.

The survey was the work of Justin S. Vaughn, associate professor of Political Science at Coastal Carolina University and Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of Political Science at the University of Houston, and was conducted between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31 as an online poll of current and recent members of the Presidents & Executives Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. That is, Vaughn noted, it was not a poll of historians, but rather political scientists.

Dr. Meena Bose, executive dean and director of presidential studies at Hofstra University, participated in the poll and said Roosevelt's ranking toward the top was expected. 

“It's not surprising to see Theodore Roosevelt ranked so highly, given how much initiative Theodore Roosevelt took in the White House,” Bose said, noting how Roosevelt wrote in his memoirs of “the obligation for the presidency to do anything that the office required so long as it wasn’t forbidden by the Constitution or by the law.”

Bose pointed to Roosevelt's “leadership and proven action” in “food and drug regulation, national parks system, protecting U.S. interests at home and abroad” and other actions.

But the scholar also noted that some of Roosevelt's actions during his time in office have been looked at through a more modern lens over time.

“When we look back on some of his foreign policy decisions, particularly with the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine that the U.S. should actually intervene in the Western Hemisphere if it sees evidence of chronic wrongdoing in other countries, I think that view … and the preeminence in the United States in making decisions for other countries … are viewed more critically today,” she told Newsday.

Harry S. Truman placed sixth, while Barack Obama surged from 16th place to seventh — and Joe Biden, on the list for the first time in the three surveys that have taken place, debuted in the rankings at 14th. Donald Trump, who was last in the previous survey, which came out in 2018, was last again in the current survey.

Vaughn said: “James Buchanan was always the worst-rated president … before Donald Trump. But, I'm not surprised by it. He was dead-last the last time and he's dead-last again.”

Vaughn said he believes that because political scientists were polled, the rankings are reflective of economic impacts of a presidency, the role of particular presidents in shaping and evolving the office of the president, and other factors as opposed to pure historic reflections on a presidency.

He said he also believes that caused a number of 19th century presidents to be overlooked, while he believes the current political climate in America also shaped the list.

Former Congressman Steve Israel, who in 2021 opened the Oyster Bay bookstore Theodore’s Books named after the former U.S. leader, said he has studied Roosevelt extensively and had a library dedicated to him in his Congressional office.

“What was most consequential about his presidency was establishing the 20th century as America’s century,” Israel said. “He did that in foreign policy, in diplomacy, but also in understanding that a great nation needs a growing middle class and must protect its natural resources.

“Washington started the nation, Lincoln saved the nation, FDR rescued the nation but Theodore Roosevelt put the nation on the map,” Israel said. 

Actor Joe Wiegand, who has portrayed Teddy Roosevelt for more than 20 years, performing for audiences in all 50 states with appearances at the White House and Sagamore Hill, said he's not surprised by the ranking of Roosevelt.

Wiegand, who is from Chicago, said he has always been struck by the perseverance of Roosevelt, who overcame the deaths of his father, mother and wife before the age of 25 and then overcame finishing third out of three candidates in a race for mayor of New York City to eventually become the youngest president in U.S. history following the assassination of William McKinley in 1901.

“A lot of people would've said the heck with politics,” Wiegand said in a phone interview from Orlando, Florida. “But, he didn't … He wasn't a perfect man, was a man of his times. But I always believed he was sincere when he spoke of the glory of work — and the joy of living.”


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