Presidents with the Worst Reputations... So Far

By Amanda Marie on 5/1/17 1:35 PM


We're just going to state for the record that Donald Trump is not the worst President of the United States as of this writing. That dubious honor goes to James Buchanan for his lack of fortitude in challenging slavery and that was before reputation on the internet was important. Other stinkers include Warren G. Harding, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, and Millard Fillmore. George Bush (#2) is also cited frequently, though just yesterday someone in a restaurant was overheard pining for him.

U.S. Presidential 'immortality projects' have sometimes succeeded, and other times failed, with the latter leaving reputations permanently ruined. Some presidents ran the nation into such a pit of disarray that history will probably never forgive them. There have been hucksters and con artists sitting in the Oval Office, many of whom were flagrant in their behavior and opinions.

After scouring U.S. history for information on how different presidents were perceived, there was no shortage of negativity. However, a few officials stood out to us as exceptionally terrible - based on their professional behavior, public sentiment, and moral character.

So, without further ado, here is a short list of the US presidents that have had the worst reputations.

James Buchanan - He Didn't Challenge Slavery

james-buchanan.jpgWhy? He didn't challenge slavery. During his time, Buchanan was an influential figure in the political maneuvering, and disengagement, that preceded the American Civil War. He was known to hold a positive view on the southern states, even during and after their attempt at secession.

While he held that slavery was morally wrong, he had not the moral fortitude to stand against it. In fact, his most intimate confidants in the political scene were southern slave owners who undoubtedly influenced his leanings on the governmental aspects of slavery and the rights of the states.

Buchanan thought that there was no proper discourse nor solution to slavery, and his inaction on the issue, and his minimal interference in the hostilities against anti-slavery movements, is thought to have exacerbated the formation of the Confederacy. He went as far as to oppose any actions he thought interfered with the affairs of the southern state’s rights. He denounced the abolitionists and pushed for abolitionist literature to be excluded from the mail. Buchanan also supported the annexation of Texas from Mexico in 1845.

Today, James Buchanan is considered a contender for the worst president in United States history. Public opinion of him was so poor after his presidency that he considered himself doomed for the gallows. Despite this, Buchanan thought that history would vindicate him by coming to his side - but how wrong he was.

Richard Nixon - Rhymes with "Scandal"

richard-nixon-photo.jpgHis name can't be uttered in modern times without the implication of scandal. Nixon was the only president in the history of the United States to resign from the office. At the time of his resignation, his approval rating was one of the lowest in history at 24 percent.

Over the years, polls measuring public approval of Nixon have been conducted, and in 2013 his approval rating was still in the pits at just 31 percent. Although he managed to reinvent himself somewhat after his abandonment of his office, it still remains that he has one of the worst reputations of any United States president.

Before Watergate, Nixon was widely admired and liked. Although his public approval wasn’t as high as some of his predecessors, he still won his 1972 re-election in a landslide. That voting year, Nixon won every state except for Massachusetts. Aside from a slight downward slide in approval, typical for presidents, the public widely approved of Nixon.

Watergate changed the entire scene for president Nixon. Practically the entire nation watched the scandal unfold. The televised hearings had a major impact on public opinion, and the public switched stances in a hurry. People moved through ambivalence to pure disapproval overnight, and as the pressure mounted on the already embattled president, Nixon announced his resignation.

Donald Trump - Lowest Approval Ratings Ever (so far)

donald-trump.jpgTrump's name, so far, can rarely be uttered without an allusion to Russian misconduct and many other issues. But let's remember that modern presidents are subject to more data review and public opinion than at any other time in American history. According to, “less than a month after Donald Trump took office, the public’s initial impressions of the new president are strongly felt, deeply polarized and far more negative than positive.” But it depends on who you ask. His base staunchly believes he is the best President ever to hold office and can do no wrong.

As we reach the 100-day mark, the first pages of Trump's history will be indelibly written, but at this time in history the press is said by many to hold a more liberal bias. Combine the fact that reputation isn't always a reflection of reality with the modern fact that history is written by the publishers and its message crafted by search and social media, it isn't looking good for Mr. Trump. 

His approval rating, at 56% according to Gallop, is much lower coming into office than any former president, and, with the fact that approval ratings almost always suffer in the early years of a term, it can be said with some degree of confidence that his approval rating might sink to the lowest in the history of the United States presidency.

One of the things that makes the current presidency so interesting are the strong views of the public. Some have even stated the name of the country might be changed to the Divided States of America. As of this writing, 75 percent of the country holds a strong opinion of the presidency, with only 17 percent stating that they have no position. 

Trumps sexual assault allegations will never go away (Google is forever), but we know well that George Orwell's "Animal Farm" was an accurate reflection of real life - people have short memories. But the internet remembers forever. 

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