Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton rated best recent US presidents

Bill Clinton

Former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have been rated among the best recent US presidents.

In a newly-released report card that grades presidents on their economic performance, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding and Rutherford B. Hayes are at the top of the class, while Chester Arthur, Herbert Hoover and Martin Van Buren received failing grades.

The first-of-its-kind study by the Georgia Institute of Technology analysed up to 220 years of data to estimate an economic "grade point average" for presidents who served from 1789 to 2009.

The research was conducted by Mark Zachary Taylor, assistant professor in Georgia Tech's Sam Nunn School of International Affairs in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

On Taylor's report card, notable presidents such as John Adams, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy rank slightly lower in the A-/B+ range.

William McKinley and Millard Filmore were in the top five, and founding father George Washington still makes the honor roll with a grade of A-.

Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan are the best-rated recent presidents, earning a grade of B.

"Most existing presidential ranking systems tend to be clouded by partisan bias, subjective judgments and other aspects of presidential performance", Taylor said.

Taylor analysed data from the Measuring Worth Project at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He then graded the presidents individually using the traditional A-F (4-0 point) scale based on how well each performed in eight economic areas such as unemployment, inflation, interest rates, stock market returns and currency strength.

Some national heroes such as Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson – each received a D for poor economic performance.

"It makes sense when you dig into the history," Taylor said, adding: "In the case of Lincoln, to fight a war, you have to print money and go into debt. That's bad for the economy in the long run, but sometimes there are more important things than the economy, such as staying united as one nation."

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