Presidential Ranking - Factors involved in rating presidential approval.

Essay by birdy02University, Master's April 2003

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What are the main criteria for rating presidents?

More than any other political figure, the President of the United States of

America attracts the scrutiny and passion of the American people. As their

elected Head of State, he represents the presence of the masses, and is seen as

the figurehead of the nation in times of national crisis and grief. The last few

decades have seen a public disillusionment with the democratic process in

American politics, and, as a consequence, the electorate look to a strong

president to support their interests against those in power whom they do not

trust. During his term in office, the president is continuously examined within

the minds of the masses, most acutely through the various limbs of the media.

All presidents begin their terms, having just been voted in by the majority of

the populace, with broad public support. Evidence shows however that this

support, or `popularity rating' wanes over time, peaking only after military or

other dramatic action.

Political scientists have long considered this aspect of

the presidency a valid one for further study, and have designed several

mechanisms for the classification of presidents. These theories help to explain

exactly what makes a president `good' or `bad', and it is these that I will try

to define and explore in order to answer the question given.

Perhaps the greatest contributor to presidential studies, at least on the

specifics of success analysis, James Barber, puts forward a binary matrix

involving two baselines. The first, activity-passivity, places the presidents

according to the amount of energy invested in day-to-day activities. For example

the notoriously hard-working Lyndon Johnson, who slept as little as possible in

order to have more time to work, features far higher on this scale than the

lethargic Calvin Coolidge, who often...