Wikipedia has rankings of UK PMs and US Presidents that give the contenders various kinds of ordinal rankings. Are there any rigorous theoretical frameworks that might underlie current and potential future attempts at relative and or absolute rankings?

To cite a contemporaneous example, there has been much public commentary on the performance of UK leaders, vis-à-vis the issue of Brexit.

What objective criteria do historians et al, use, in attempting to construct such a ranking between the performance of David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Theresa May?

  • Reworked to address that crystal ball concern @Philipp
    – MikeRoger
    Sep 4, 2019 at 12:22
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    After you reworked the question it is no longer opinion-based or speculative, but the summary of the criticism of various UK prime minsters is now no longer required for context. I removed that part and reopened the question.
    – Philipp
    Sep 4, 2019 at 12:40
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it belongs in the History SE. (Short answer though: the criteria basically is the historical balance sheet. On that basis, Churchill = Good; Hitler = Bad.) Sep 5, 2019 at 20:04
  • I do see the relevance to history @DenisdeBernardy, but I homed my question here after considering that angle. Because as we see during the fractious Brexit debate, now ongoing for 3 years and counting, it is repeatedly asserted in political argument, that such and such a leader ranks low etc. So my hope might be, that more objective criteria for assessing such assertions, could help improve the quality of the contemporaneous analysis in politics, if not the debate itself.
    – MikeRoger
    Sep 6, 2019 at 8:32
  • There are objective criteria they could use (e.g. GDP, amount of territory commanded, life expectancy) but selecting which objective criteria to use is subjective.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 17, 2021 at 10:41

2 Answers 2


They don't use objective criteria, they are explicitly subjective. These ratings are based on polls (of academics, of journalists, of the population etc)

Judging the quality of something is essentially a subjective act, but in a real way, the measure of something's quality is the impression it makes on the subject, so "subjective" isn't a bad word. We can learn something about the impression that different PMs made of their effectiveness from such surveys.


No. There are no objective criteria to determine the "quality" of a President/Prime Minister. Results like those come form either polls or an arbitrarely chosen set of "validation items" that is of course subject to the point of view of whoever is making the lists.

If you pay close attention, you will see that, in the US example, there is a clear political bias against the current president (well, against all Republicans from the 20th century in general). The discrepancies between different polls are good evidence of their lack of objectivity

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    And yet, how can we explain the fact that, in the 2nd cited link above, WikiPedia, (which strives hard to avoid obvious bias) makes Honest Abe the winner by a country mile and his is the only non-negative portrait "above the fold".
    – MikeRoger
    Sep 5, 2019 at 16:22
  • @MikeRoger Claiming to be neutral is one thing. Actually being it is a very different one. After all, who does present himself as "biased"?
    – David
    Sep 5, 2019 at 16:25
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    But surely @David, one of the strengths of WikiPedia is moderated content and a community of users with many eyes on popular pages such as the above. Anyone who tries to edit such a page with controversial or unsupported edits, quickly learns about this facet.
    – MikeRoger
    Sep 5, 2019 at 16:30
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    @MikeRoger Anyone who tries to edit such a page with edits that the rest of the users think they're controversial. There could be a bias in the people that constitute Wikipedia editors (for example, I'm sure they all have a computer and an Internet connexion)
    – David
    Sep 5, 2019 at 16:32

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