No less than their US counterparts, the views of UK scholars are influenced by their own times.
The passions of the present may well have affected the low position of George W Bush, and Barack Obama's high interim score, which would have placed him eighth overall if he had been included in the poll.
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Of the five presidents from 1977 to 2009, only Reagan makes the top 10”
Memories are still raw regarding Bush's Iraq war policy and his perceived expansion of the "imperial presidency", but his bottom 10 placing arguably underestimates the strength of his vision/agenda setting and his success in achieving his domestic objectives.
Obama's score reflects his substantive legislative achievements and his symbolic importance as the first African American president. Nevertheless, it is well to note with regard to his ultimate (rather than interim) rating that no president in the UK survey top 10 failed to win re-election to a second term.
This selection would help you understand some of the matters that influenced decisions. Despite many inclinations to the contrary, it is still at least somewhat accurate to consider historians the celebrators of the present. First, despite Bush's policy vision and implementation successes, he is ranked incredibly low due to residual contemporary passions. President Obama, on the other hand, is the unofficial victor for the era, despite it being ongoing. This could also demonstrate an ideological bias.
That being said, here's more influences, which, thankfully, the BBC summaries are willing to accept.
It is also likely that Roosevelt's stock rose because the poll was conducted against the background of the worst economic troubles since the 1930s.
What concerns us now will concern historians or influence historians when they begin researching and writing.
The most notable case is that of John F Kennedy (1961-63), ranked as high as sixth in some recent US surveys but only 15th in the UK poll. UK academics seemingly faulted JFK for the gap between his rhetoric and his substantive achievements as president.
For Americans, the legacy of the Kennedy's is that of the gatekeepers and the martyr. Many will focus immensely on Kennedy's foreign policy stumbles and important victories, but not as much on the domestic front. For many historians, they also
attack the gatekeepers, who are now all gone, for inflating the ideas and decisions of JFK. I actually got to witness just one of those instances after meeting Ted Sorenson at a conference hosted in his boss (and friend)'s honor. The morning after Ted gave a rousing and provocative account of what could have been at night, the historians critiqued the notion that many of the US's foreign policy struggles with Vietnam would have just evaporated had Kennedy been alive just a bit longer. Then, of course, there was a great professor from, yes, I believe the UK, who decided to analyze the lovely portrayals of Kennedy and how everyone tried to be
Kennedy (including Nixon, Kerry, and so forth). The mythos had largely become a faint shadow of what was originally just a really good PR campaign.