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Then-President Barack Obama shakes hands with then-President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

These are the best modern presidents, according to Republicans and Democrats

New Pew research shows how Americans rank recent presidents by party and age.

SHARE These are the best modern presidents, according to Republicans and Democrats
SHARE These are the best modern presidents, according to Republicans and Democrats

Republicans are split between naming former President Ronald Reagan the best president of the past 40 years or saying it’s former President Donald Trump, while a majority of Democrats say the designation belongs to former President Barack Obama.

That’s according to a new poll out by Pew Research Center. The poll found 42% of Republicans named Reagan as the best recent president, while 37% believe it’s Trump. They were followed by former President George W. Bush and Obama, interestingly enough, who tied for third in a steep drop-off at 6%.

Among Democrats, 59% named Obama as the best modern president, followed by former President Bill Clinton at 19% and Reagan at 8%, who came ahead of President Joe Biden at 5%.

Overall, Obama was the most popular recent president, clocking in at 35% support.


The poll found significant differences by age, with Democrats more likely to name Obama as the top POTUS the younger they were. Reagan was most popular with older Republicans, while 20% of Republicans ages 18 to 29 said a Democrat was the best president of the last four decades, the highest cross-party response for any age group, Republican or Democrat.

According to historians, however, Reagan is the best recent president. C-SPAN’s 2021 presidential historians survey, released in June, asked 142 historians, college professors and other professional presidential observers to score every POTUS on a 1-to-10 scale across 10 qualities of presidential leadership. The survey ranked Reagan ninth, giving him high marks for his public persuasion and vision, while Obama came in right behind at No. 10, scoring high on the pursuit of equal justice for all and moral authority (Abraham Lincoln came in first).

Trump came in 41st, ahead of just three presidents: the two pre-Civil War presidents, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson, the first president ever impeached. A majority of Republicans, however, think Trump was better than Lincoln, according to a 2019 Economist-YouGov poll. The poll had the latest Republican president beating out the first Republican president by 53% to 47%.