Newswise — President Barack Obama had the highest rating among modern U.S. presidents for both his overall leadership and rhetoric on diversity and inclusion, according to a new poll conducted by Northwestern University’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy (CSDD).

Obama, who served as the 44th president, scored 75 points out of a possible 100. President Donald Trump had the lowest overall score with nine points. 

“Public opinion and expert polls on presidential leadership have been a feature of the public culture in the U.S. since the end of World War II,” said Alvin B. Tillery Jr., director of the CSDD and associate professor of political science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. “This period coincided with America’s transition from a society with public norms grounded in white supremacy, patriarchy and homophobia. Despite this fact, there have been no major polls on presidential leadership on diversity and inclusion.” 

The CSDD, working in conjunction with Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, conducted a poll of 113 academic researchers and asked them to rate the 14 modern presidents on both their overall leadership and their rhetoric on diversity and inclusion using a scale ranging from 0 to 100.

The respondents emerged from an invitation pool of 400 scholars who have published works dealing with presidential leadership on diversity and inclusion. The invitation pool included an oversample of scholars who teach at institutions that are ranked among the “Top 20 Most Conservative Colleges” by The Princeton Review. 

The survey asked respondents to rate the “greatness” of the 14 presidents in three categories of leadership that provided them with opportunities to promote diversity and inclusion -- the use of executive power to protect of the constitutional rights of ethnic and racial minorities, LGBTQ Americans and women; the use of inclusive rhetoric about ethnic and racial minorities, LGBTQ Americans and women; and the use of the Article II powers of appointment to include ethnic and racial minorities, LGBTQ Americans and women. 

“Perhaps the most noteworthy finding is that our experts rated the 14 presidents substantially lower on their diversity and inclusion leadership than they did on their overall leadership,” Tillery said. “Whereas nine of the 14 modern presidents garnered at least 50 points out of 100 from our panel for their overall leadership, only Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were rated above 50 points for their leadership on diversity and inclusion. The average score on the diversity and inclusion index was 35 points out of 100. 

Tillery added that the experts identified LGBTQ issues as the area where the modern presidents have been most deficient in providing diversity and inclusion leadership. Only Obama scored above 50 points on presidential leadership on LGBTQ issues. 

“These findings present a sober reminder of the challenges that LGBTQ Americans continue to face to gain representation in our national political discourse,” Tillery said. “It is also noteworthy that George W. Bush, the only Republican president to rank in the top 5 on overall diversity and inclusion leadership, would have earned a much higher ranking from our experts if they had perceived him as more engaged on LBGTQ issues. Finally, President Trump had the lowest score -- eight out of 100 -- on LGBTQ issues of the presidents to hold office since the 1969 Stonewall uprising.” 

Journal Link: Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy (CSDD) Poll