Siena College and C-SPAN Announce the Rankings of the First Ladies of the United States (FLOTUS)

Eleanor Roosevelt retains the top spot as America’s best First Lady. Michelle Obama enters the study as 5th, while Hillary Clinton drops to 6th.

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Not only is Eleanor Roosevelt America’s First Lady according to these scholars, but in Siena’s most recent poll, her husband, FDR, was the top President.

Loudonville, NY (PRWEB) February 15, 2014

For the fifth time in thirty-two years, Eleanor Roosevelt receives the top spot in the Siena College Expert Survey of American First Ladies released today. Historians and scholars once again see Mrs. Roosevelt best exemplifying the ten characteristics of a First Lady. Abigail Adams finishes second, Jacqueline Kennedy is again in the third spot, Dolley Madison moves into fourth position (from 6th), and Michelle Obama enters the survey and assumes fifth moving Hillary Clinton down two places to sixth. Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Martha Washington and Rosalynn Carter round out the top ten.

For the first time, Siena College has partnered on its First Ladies survey with the C-SPAN cable network as a complement to the network’s year-long historical series First Ladies: Influence and Image. C-SPAN will feature the survey results during a live telecast of its Washington Journal morning program on February 16th and during the final program of the First Ladies series on February 17th.

Combining the data from this study with Siena’s 2008 Rankings of the American Presidents, the top First Couple is Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt followed by the Washingtons, Edith and T.R. Roosevelt, the Madisons and Abigail and John Adams. While Edith Roosevelt, Martha Washington, and Elizabeth Monroe all had significantly lower ranking than their husbands, Mary Lincoln had the largest negative difference between her ranking and her husband’s and dragged the Lincolns down to seventh place from Abe’s stand- alone position in the Presidential rankings of third place.

Eleanor Roosevelt is ranked at the top in six of the categories: Background, Value to the Country, Leadership, Being her own Woman, Accomplishments and Courage. Abigail Adams is top rated in Integrity and Value to the President while Jacqueline Kennedy is the number one pick on Being a White House Steward and Public Image. While the lowest rated First Ladies are Jane Pierce, Eliza Johnson, Letitia Tyler, Florence Harding and Margaret Taylor; Abigail Fillmore, Pat Nixon and Ida McKinley also are on the whole seen as ‘fair at best.’ Mary Lincoln, previously in last place and in each replication of the study one of the ‘final five’, upped her standing this year rounding out the bottom ten.

Hillary Clinton is the clear choice of scholars as the First Lady they could most imagine serving as President garnering more than twice the support of Eleanor Roosevelt with Michelle Obama a distant third. While no First Lady is a pull away leader in the category of ‘could have done more while in office’, Laura Bush is mentioned most often followed closely by Pat Nixon, Mamie Eisenhower, Bess Truman and Barbara Bush.

The surveys, conducted five times since 1982, ask historians, political scientists and published scholars to rank each First Lady, on a scale of one to five, five being excellent, in ten separate categories.

  •     Background    
  •     Integrity
  •     Value to the country    
  •     Leadership
  •     Being the White House Steward    
  •     Being her own woman
  •     Courage    
  •     Public image
  •     Accomplishments    
  •     Value to the President

“Put Eleanor Roosevelt’s picture next to First Lady in any text,” notes Dr. Levy. “Not only is she most highly rated overall and in many of categories, but among First Ladies of the 20th-21st centuries she is seen as best on advancing women’s issues, as the strongest communicator, greatest political asset, performing the greatest service to the country after leaving office and as creating a lasting legacy.”

“But the final chapters have not been written on Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama by any means. Clinton is not surprisingly seen as the one First Lady most readily capable of moving from the White House quarters into the Oval Office, a feat that may come to pass by the next First Lady Survey. Michelle Obama finishes third as a potential President and rates strongly on attributes including balancing family life, women’s issues and communicating.”

“Not only is Eleanor Roosevelt America’s First Lady according to these scholars, but in Siena’s most recent poll, her husband, FDR, was the top President. Comparing that ‘power couple’ to all others only one couple, the Washingtons get a grade of A minus, while nine, TR and Edith, the Madisons, John and Abigail Adams, the Kennedys, Lincolns, Obamas, Clintons, LBJ and Lady Bird and Edith and Woodrow Wilson get B’s. The rest are C ranked at best with failing grades going to the Pierce’s, Harding’s and Eliza and Andrew Johnson.”

“Asked whether or not they think the job of First Lady ought to be paid, this group of experts overwhelmingly is opposed with only a quarter calling for compensating this important and much discussed position. While we may not send the First Lady a paycheck, this study and continuing research on these First Ladies show that the country, in many cases, reap the benefits and in others, suffers the ill effects of their performance,” Levy added.

Siena College Research Institute is well known for its Survey of American Presidents, begun in 1982 during the Reagan Administration and continued during the terms of presidents George H. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Unlike their Presidents’ survey, SRI’s First Ladies survey had no similar studies against which they could be measured, and thus they established a benchmark. Results of the three First Ladies surveys have been widely published in newspapers and journals nationwide, and have been included in three books on the subject:

  •     “First Ladies” by Betty Boyd Caroli
  •     “American First Ladies” by Lewis L. Gould
  •     “Rating the First Ladies: The Women Who Influenced the Presidency” by John B. Roberts II

This Siena/C-SPAN survey of historians, political scientists and published scholars was conducted from October 10 – November 25, 2013 via mail and online interviews with 242 experts.

For more information about the survey, including background, variations and interpretations of the rankings, charts and other data see the SRI website at http://www.siena.edu/sri/firstladies.

For comment, please contact Dr. Don Levy, SRI Director at 518-944-0482 or dlevy(at)siena(dot)edu.

Appendices: (found at http://www.siena.edu/sri/firstladies)
A: Overall Survey Results 2014
B: Relative rankings of 20th – 21st Century First Ladies on select questions
C: Ranking of Presidential Couples set to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt
D: Previous rankings in 1982, 1992, 2003, 2008


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Attachments

Siena 2013 FLOTUS Press Release Siena 2013 First Ladies Study Press Release

Press Release from Siena First Ladies Study


Top Ten First Ladies in the 2013 Siena FLOTUS Study Siena 2013 Top Ten First Ladies

Top Ten First Ladies in the 2013 Siena Study


Siena FLOTUS Top Five First Ladies Siena Top Five First Ladies Over the Course of the Study

Siena Top Five First Ladies 1982-2013


Siena FLOTUS Recent First Ladies Siena 20th and 21st Century First Ladies

Siena Comparison of First Ladies of First Ladies from the Most Recent Era