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Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians
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Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  173 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
The author of the acclaimed biography of President James Polk offers a fresh, playful, and challenging way of playing America’s favorite game—by pitching historians’ views and subsequent experts’ polls against the judgment and votes of the presidents’ own contemporaries.

Robert W. Merry presents a fresh, playful, and challenging way of playing America’s favorite game, “Rati
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by Simon Schuster (first published June 26th 2012)
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Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, presidents
Ranking of presidents began with Arthur Schlesinger’s polling of historians in 1948. It was revived in 1996 by his son Arthur Schlesinger Jr. who commissioned a poll of 32 participants. There were many other ratings which are discussed in detail. They were all similar in that they ranked Lincoln, Washington and Roosevelt as greats.

What seems to be the best way to rank the presidents is to use The 13 Keys to the Presidency by Allen Lichtman and Ken DeCell. The author uses these keys extensively.
Marita Terese
Great reminder of scandals past. Gives you perspective. Helps you sleep at night to see things have gone horribly askew in the past and we moved forward.
Jan 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm no expert on presidential politics, but I find ranking the presidents an intriguing idea. Lincoln, Washington, and FDR are kings of the domain, whereas James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, and Andrew Johnson are the turds in the punch bowl (a bunch of FLOTUS in the POTUS, so to speak [wait what??]). But why is it considered a consensus that the Presidents Roosevelt and the men on our money (except Grant of course) sit atop the power rankings? Is it because all the academics involved are liberal ...more
US presidents were rated under the following classifications:
1, Great
2. Near Great
3. High or above average
4. Average
5. Low or Below Average
6. Failure

The three consensus Great Presidents were George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Presidents named in the failure category included James Buchanan, Warren Harding, Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon.

I will rate the Presidents in my lifetime from 1952 to now:
Harry Truman – high or above average
Dwight Eisenhower – average
The author states that this book is not for political scientists, but rather political aficionados. I think that's why I had such a hard time getting through this book (TWO WEEKS and I'm a fast reader!)-- I am neither of those; just a person who likes American history and was interested in seeing what others think about our current and past presidents.

For this "record", the author looks at seven (7) historical Academic Presidential Polls: Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. in 1948, Arthur Schlesinger, Sr.
Steven Elliott
Somewhat entertaining but really a biography project of each president. The topic is interesting, seeing the presidents rank against each other but not enough juice to keep it going plus a few times of repetition in a short book.
Nov 03, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, presidents
The surveys done are by Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr.
The study is in 4 parts
I Academic polls
II Role of the people ; Nature of presidential elections.
III The test of greatness
IV Assess the 5 most recent presidents ??

Robert Merry confesses that he considers the institution to be a work of genius.
1948-- Life magazine published Arthur Schlesinger's work.
The rating system placed presidents in one of the categories: great, Near Great, Average, Below Average, and Failure.
Lincoln, George Washington, Frankl
MaryEllen Elizabeth Hart

Rating Robert Merry's book: "Where They Stand" The American Presidents in the eyes of voters and historians" (ranking the Presidents.)

A good book to read in a USA Presidential Election year. I enjoyed Merry's discussion style and explanations. His top ten presidents are popularly ranked in the order Merry lists. Merry's middle and mediocre or "failed" Presidents are surprising. I contest his harsh vocabulary and low ranking of the post Civil War presidents Johnson, Grant, Hayes, who were truly
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ranking presidents may not be a national past time, but Robert W. Merry makes us feel that it should be. He encourages his readers to have fun as they play the "Rating Game", and provides fascinating analyses as he moves us around the game board. His thesis: by examining academic polls and the will of the electorate, as measured by results at the ballot box, we arrive at fairly consistent ratings of presidential performance.

We learn a lot about presidents while playing the Rating Game. Mr. Merry

Mr. Merry, a former journalist, takes the pastime of rating the Presidents of the United States with some seriousness. I think he does have add a nice twist to the process, by comparing historian's rankings with the electoral success of the presidents or the success of their political parties in retaining the White House upon the end of their legally required or customarily expected two terms, if they made it that far. One tricky bit, nicely dealt with, is how to judge Presidents such as Theodo

Nov 03, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Because of the 2012 election, I wanted to study up on the hisorical perspective of U.S. Presidents and what rational is used to rank the greatness of these individuals. As I researched this subject, I continued to see the book "Where They Stand" by Robert W. Merry as a new and valuble source. The book is filled with charts and listings of previous polls concerning Presidental ranking. The same polls I found free on the internet. He also proposes a unique rational of evaluating the greatness of a ...more
Fr. Ted
An interesting book, and easily readable. Merry takes a critical look at various polls since the 1950's which have ranked and rated U.S. Presidents. His is not another poll, though he does offer thoughts about how he would rank the presidents, but rather he looks at possible criteria for ranking presidents and looks at how the various presidents measure up. His analysis of the presidents was very close to what I read in Andrew Polsky's ELUSIVE VICTORIES. What he maybe failed to do was define "gr ...more
This is solidly three stars. The writing is personable, which helps when your topic is every president in history, including the boring ones. However, when it comes to rating each president, there's not a whole lot to say about why they are ranked the way they are. Maybe you learn a bit more about Franklin Pierce (yes, we had a president named Franklin Pierce), but there's precious little of substance that can be said about why the electorate and historians like or don't like a president.

The thr
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Ever since I was little I've had an interest in presidents. I wanted to be president for a while. (Abandoned that when I found out what the job really entails lol.) But I remember pouring over different president books, memorizing their accomplishments, etc. So when I saw this book at the library I had to check it out.

It wasn't very long, which was nice, though I kind of would have preferred a chronological history of where the author believed the presidents stood in history. I suppose though th
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have a weakness for presidential history. I heard about this book on Morning Joe. They said, "So readable." I don't think they actually read the book. This is not The Presidents Club. That book actually told a story.

I found the organization of the book very confusing and had to check the table of contents constantly to see where I was. The author has this thesis about rating presidents according to history's ranking and the current electorate's vote. He repeats this thesis over and over and o
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it interesting to learn how historians and politicos view the presidency as a whole and the individuals who occupied the position. Taking into consideration society, economics and politics, each president was evaluated by various people and placed in a particular category. While I agreed with the placement of most of the presidents, I disagreed with a few. There are a few presidents who actually did more harm than good politically and economically yet the historians placed them in ...more
The American Conservative
'Merry displays an admirable instinct toward crowdsourcing in his exploration of presidential greatness and failure. “I place stock in collective assessments—the rankings of hundreds of historians through multiple surveys over several decades; and the collective judgment of the electorate as it hired and fired presidents through the course of American history,” he writes.

Of course, there are some problems with holding historians’ assessments in contrast with contemporaneous voters’. One small on
Sep 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I sometimes disagreed with Merry's assessments of American presidents, he provides a lot of good points. Presidential election results are often a matter of timing or good fortune, and I wouldn't put as much stock into those results as Merry has in his book. However, that's the joy in following the various rankings. He raises good questions about why certain presidents get away with problems (corruption, abuse of power) and others are heavily penalized. Overall, I started to see how pre ...more
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, ibooks
Merry takes a look at the several rankings of US Presidents and adds his own innovation to the mix: that of considering how the people of the time felt about the President and not just at how historians consider things. The innovation doesn't change much for the best and worst Presidents but it does bring up a few interesting inconsistencies: Grant - loved by the people, not by historians; Wilson - not so loved by the people, highly esteemed by historians. Merry discusses Clinton (good), Bush (p ...more
The first section on the academics and their polls of successful presidents is incredibly dry. I was tempted more than once to give up, but I'm glad I didn't. The meat of the book is about the presidents, their successes and their failures. This was the part I found interesting. I knew much of the historical detail, but it was good to put it into the perspective of how the people voted at the following election. How did the populace feel about the War of 1812, for example? Is a president who doe ...more
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somehow, in reading the description of this book online before purchasing, I missed its intent completely. I (incorrectly) assumed that the author was going to extrapolate the views, politics, and approaches that past presidents may taken with modern day issues such as terrorism, abortion, gun control, death penalty, etc. Boy was I wrong! I did, however, hang out in order to find the author's true intent and was certainly intrigued. Unless you have at least a mild interest in presidential histor ...more
Very interesting new viewpoint on the presidential rating game. From the noting of differences between the judgement of voters and the judgement of history to describing what he terms the "five men of destiny", Merry gave a summary of the various ratings of the Presidents that have been given over the years, and then offers one of his own.

Although I don't agree with all his presidential ratings (ex: I think Millard was a failure, and I think John Adams was a better president than he's given cred
Dec 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Merry takes a look at the rating of U.S. presidents. He briefly discusses the rating lists, noting the ascension and descension of the Presidents and possible reasons for their fluctuations. He then reviews the Presidents' terms in office and explains how the greats and not so greats got to be rated as such, something I've always wondered. He adds his opinion to the rating of others and based on his own rating system, adjusts the list. Merry even takes a stab at the most recent Presidents ...more
Charles M.
For presidential history afficiondos, rating presidents is where it's at! Everybody has Washington, Lincoln and FDR in top 3; but this author gives a fascinating thought-provking system of rating the chief executives, based on voter approval, elections, etc. Soooo, Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland are considered ranked too high; while William McKinley, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan are ranked too low. Must read for anybody interested in presidential history; and it quotes most recent public ...more
Nov 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book posed well thought out constructs on what can make or break a presidency. We have of course experienced it first had with the recent election. It is another thing to go back into history and look at what issues defined the historic presidencies. I was kind of expecting more of a trivia pursuits presentation but got from Merry a serious look at what defines greatest and failure in the eyes of historical perspective and how this changes over time and reevaluation.
Tim Smith
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insightful review of president's place in history and how they hold it. Book stresses the wisdom of voters, even though it may not appear so at the time. Most interesting (especially now) is the hypothesis (Lichtman & DeCell) that reelection is due, not to effective campaigning, or debate flubs, or whatever, but by how successful a president met the expectations of voters - 13 keys.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tries to marry the verdict of historians and voters - and comes up with a really interesting book. If we have faith in democracy, then the verdict of voters matters. RW Merry does need to address, in all of this, the 'tyranny of the majority' problem, compounded by large segments of the populations being able to vote prior to civil rights legislation.
As a fan of several presidents, you might find food for thought and some fun reading hours in Where They Stand. The author examines the American presidency and the American voter, then takes a stand on who our best presidents were.
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed Merry's book about Polk so much, that I was looking for more from him.
Interesting topic, with enjoyable reading and illuminating observations.
I liked it, but not sure whether the material was expanded upon as much as it could have been.
Greg Miller
Interesting reading, but slow at times and strangely organized. The categories and topics made sense but cause the narrative to jump around a lot. I like his idea that Presidents can be rated by their electoral results - a different "take."
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Robert W. Merry (born 1946) is an American journalist, publishing executive, commentator, and author. He is the editor of The American Conservative.

Robert W. Merry was born in 1946 in Tacoma, WA. He served three years in the U.S. Army, including two years as a counterintelligence special agent in West Germany. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in journalism in
More about Robert W. Merry...