CSPAN recently asked 64 presidential scholars to rank American presidents based on the following characteristics: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with congress, vision, equality and justice, and performance within the context of the times.
You can read the results here. The top five are:
1. Abraham Lincoln
3.Franklin Delano Roosevelt
6.John F. Kennedy
36.George W. Bush
I have no qualms with Lincoln at #1, but I would probably put FDR at #2, the spot he held during the last CSPAN survey in 2000.
In the nine years since the last survey, Bill Clinton made the biggest jump forward (from 21 to 16) and Rutherford B. Hayes took the biggest dive (from 26 to 33).
I am always surprised to see Truman so high on these lists. He has really been rehabilitated in recent years by the likes of David McCullough and Alonzo Hamby. I would probably rank Reagan a bit higher than #10 and James K. Polk a bit lower than #12.
Actually, I was more interested in the presidential scholars chosen to take the survey. There are a lot Lincoln scholars in the bunch.