Presidential Greatness and Political Science: Assessing the 2014 APSA Presidents and Executive Politics Section Presidential Greatness Survey
by Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston, Justin S. Vaughn, Boise State University
Debates over presidential greatness have been with us for decades, facilitated in part by numerous systematic surveys of scholars with expertise in American history and politics. Despite this, the voice of political scientists in this debate has been relatively muted compared particularly with the role historians have had in making these determinations. In this article, Brandon Rottinghaus (University of Houston) and Justin S. Vaughn (Boise State University) introduce and assess the results of a recent effort to capture the attitudes of political science experts on the presidency on presidential greatness. By surveying the membership of the American Political Science Association’s Presidency & Executive Politics section, Rottinghaus and Vaughn were able to identify and then compare specifically the attitudes of political scientists against the growing body of ratings and rankings of a phenomenon of long-standing interest and importance. The results show areas where political scientists are both similar and distinct from other disciplinary perspectives in how they assess presidential leadership. They conclude that presidential greatness today appears to be as much about successful management of complex national problems as the promotion of big ideas (although these may be related).