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Eleanor Roosevelt Has Won Best FLOTUS Poll 5 Times Running

A survey conducted by Siena College found Eleanor Roosevelt is the most popular FLOTUS among historians and political scientists by a wide margin.
Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 16, 2014

We've all got opinions about what makes a good president, but what about the president's partner? A new poll released Sunday sheds some light on how our country's First Ladies stack up against each other. And apparently it's not much of a contest.

Over the past 32 years, Siena College has partnered with C-SPAN to poll historians and scholars on which White House spouse best exemplifies the term "First Lady," based on ten categories of merit. The survey's been conducted five times so far, and each time the main result is the same: Eleanor Roosevelt wins by a large margin.

As First Lady for all of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's four terms, Eleanor was with the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. She's remembered chiefly as an outspoken advocate for civil and women's rights and for her work with the United Nations after she left the White House. (Via Universal Studios)

After Roosevelt, the most popular First Ladies are Abigail Adams, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Dolley Madison. Michelle Obama managed to make it into the top 5 this year, pushing Hillary Clinton to sixth place.

On the other side of the coin, the top five worst First Ladies, in descending order, are Margaret Taylor, Florence Harding, Letitia Tyler, Eliza Johnson, and Jane Pierce —  "because apparently people have really strong opinions about Jane Pierce," as CBS quips.

Still, it might be wise to take these rankings with a grain of salt. The Wire notes the metrics used to assess a successful FLOTUS have changed over the course of history. ​"Ascribing [modern] principles by rank to women serving in an undefined political role over the course of more than two centuries feels more like a fool's errand."

And as survey director Don Levy admits to C-SPAN, there's a reason most of the top 10 First Ladies tend to lean to the left.

"This is a survey of practicing historians, political scientists, many of whom are nested within the academy. ... That group tends to be a little bit more biased towards the Democrats."

The only First Lady not included in the survey was Anna Harrison, whose husband William served only 32 days in office before succumbing to pneumonia.