The 13 Most Divisive U.S Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists

Olu Ojo
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Diverse in their approach, policies, and overall legacies, several U.S. Presidents have left their mark as some of the most polarizing figures in history. We delve into these influential leaders’ backgrounds, accomplishments, and controversies.

The Science Behind the Rankings

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A meticulously curated survey encompassing feedback from 170 current and past American Political Science Association members shed light on these polarizing figures. Participants were tasked with identifying up to five presidents they perceived as the most divisive. The final list emerged based on the frequency and the average rank of polarization.

Lyndon B. Johnson

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
Image Credit: Arnold Newman via Wikimedia Commons.com

LBJ’s legacy intertwines with the Civil Rights Movement and the shadows of the Vietnam War. While hailed for pushing civil rights legislation, his escalation of the Vietnam conflict drew sharp criticism.

John Adams

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
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Adams navigated the young nation through diplomatic crises, notably the XYZ Affair. However, the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts tarnished his legacy and divided public opinion.

James Buchanan

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
Image Credit: George Peter Alexander Healy via Wikimedia Commons.com

Under Buchanan’s watch, the U.S. teetered towards civil war. His perceived inaction and pro-Southern policies made him a contentious figure in the run-up to the Civil War.

Woodrow Wilson

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
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Wilson’s leadership during World War I is lauded for its diplomacy, especially the Fourteen Points. However, his racial policies and mishandling of the Treaty of Versailles added polarization to his tenure.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
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While FDR’s New Deal provided relief during the Great Depression, his attempt to pack the Supreme Court and internment of Japanese-Americans were sources of significant contention.

Bill Clinton

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
Image Credit: Bob McNeely via Wikimedia Commons.com

Clinton’s era saw a booming economy and global peace endeavors. However, the Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment trial cast long shadows over his legacy.

Ronald Reagan

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
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Reagan’s charismatic leadership saw the end of the Cold War. Yet, the Iran-Contra affair and policies perceived as favoring the wealthy made him a divisive figure.

Abraham Lincoln

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
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As the president during America’s darkest hour, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation marked a turning point. However, his suspension of habeas corpus and war decisions made him controversial in many circles.

Richard Nixon

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
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Beyond the infamous Watergate scandal, Nixon’s groundbreaking visits to China and détente with the USSR stand out. However, his role in escalating the Vietnam War added to his polarizing image.

Barack Obama

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
Image Credit: Pete Souza via Wikimedia Commons.com

While the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” revolutionized U.S. healthcare, Obama’s foreign policy, particularly concerning the Middle East, drew admiration and criticism.

George W. Bush

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
Image Credit: Eric Draper via Wikimedia Commons.com

Bush’s immediate response to 9/11 was universally praised, but under the pretenses of WMDs, the subsequent Iraq War rendered him contentious.

Andrew Jackson

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
Image Credit: Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl via Wikimedia Commons.com

Jackson’s fierce advocacy for the commoner set him apart. Still, his role in the Trail of Tears and fierce battles with the National Bank remain major debate points.

Donald Trump

The 15 Most Divisive U.S. Presidents, Ranked By Political Scientists
Image Credit: Shealah Craighead via Wikimedia Commons.com

Trump’s policies on immigration, trade wars, and approach towards NATO redefined America’s global stance. While his base praised his “America First” mantra, many saw his style as divisive and confrontational.

Presidential legacies are not set in stone. With time, opinions shift, and new information comes to light. But as of now, these leaders stand out as the figures that have most sharply divided American opinion.

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Author

  • Olu Ojo

    My name is Olu. I am a passionate entrepreneur who loves to write about Pets, Home Improvement Hacks & Products, Fitness, and Travel Lifestyle. I have two bachelor's degrees in Veterinary Medicine and Applied Accounting with a CPA designation. I currently shuffle time between completing a Master of Business Administration Degree Education, Professional Practice, and Content writing. I have freelanced lifestyle content and posts for many top authority websites like MSN, and Wealth of Geeks.

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