Past businessmen did poorly as presidents
He’s a sharp-elbowed businessman who gets things done. A tough-as-nails negotiator. A no-BS guy who tells it like it is. But does this mean Donald Trump would be a good—or great—president?
History suggests that there is no link between success in the business world and success in the White House. In fact—and surprisingly—the opposite appears to be true. Presidents with business backgrounds rank poorly among historians and voters, who have turned several of them out of office for poor performance. In fact, since 1900, the only president who is today considered great—Harry Truman—was a failed businessman.
In recent years, two separate, well-respected surveys of historians, political scientists and presidential scholars have ranked the presidents in order of greatness. What did the Siena College Research Institute and American Political Science Association each conclude? That in the aggregate, presidents who first worked in the business world before entering politics, tend to rank in the bottom third of all presidents. Here they are:
|President||Business skill||Siena ranking||Apsa|
|Warren Harding||Newspaper publisher||43||42|
|Calvin Coolidge||VP, Nonotuck Savings Bank, Northampton, Mass.||31||27|
|George H.W. Bush||Oilman||22||17|
George W Bush
|Oilman, Major League Baseball team co-owner||34|
The average ranking for this group is 27 and median is 28, so out of 43 presidents (yes, only 43 men have been president), the group ranks near the bottom third. Voters agree with the historians: three of the seven businessmen-turned-presidents were kicked out after just one term in office: Hoover, Carter and the first George Bush. Were it not, in fact, for Truman, the average of 27 and median of 28 for this group would have been even worse.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that a President Trump would fare as these men did. But it does suggest that business success is not enough.
Now let’s look now at the presidents of the modern era who lacked business backgrounds. How do they rate? .