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Richard Neustadt began his classic study, Presidential Power (1960), with the observation:

“In the United States we like to ‘rate’ a President. We measure him as ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ and call what we are measuring his ‘leadership’. We do not wait until a man is dead; we rate him from the moment he takes office.”

In the decades that has elapsed since Neustadt wrote these words, systematic presidential rating has become a regular academic exercise, but one effectively monopolized by US scholars. Over the same period, however, study of and research in US history and politics has expanded dramatically in UK universities. Accordingly, the lack of a UK rating of US presidents is a surprising omission that needs to be put right. 

This project, first conducted in 2010 under the auspices of the Institute for the Study of the Americas, was the first ever UK academic survey to rate US presidents. It gave an interim assessment of Barack Obama’s presidency.

In 2016, UK academics were again surveyed in the months and days leading up to the election for Obama’s successor. Six years on, UK specialists in US history had the opportunity to understand the full term of Obama’s presidency and reconsider the historical legacy of his predecessors. Scholars were asked to assess presidential performance in a number of fields, and the aggregate of these ratings has produced an overall rating.  

In 2010, the survey was conducted by Professor Iwan Morgan, Director of the American Presidency Centre at UCL Institute of the Americas (UCL-IA). In 2016, Professor Morgan was joined by Michael Patrick Cullinane, Reader in American History at Northumbria University Newcastle, and J. Simon Rofe, Senior Lecturer in  in Diplomacy and International Studies at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS-University of London.

We would like to thank the British Association of American Studies and the Embassy of the United States (London) for their financial contribution to this project.

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