Abraham Lincoln Decisively Tops University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll as Most Impactful U.S. President for African Americans

Bipartisan Agreement Among Voters; Trump Not Ranked Among Top Choices
Tatishe Nteta
Tatishe Nteta

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll

AMHERST, Mass. – In assessing which president has done the most for African Americans in U.S. history, Abraham Lincoln is the overwhelming choice of likely voters in a new University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll.

When asked to rank in order the top three presidents who have done the most for African Americans, voters overwhelmingly pointed to Lincoln with 64% of likely voters ranking Lincoln first overall. Lyndon Johnson received the most second place votes followed by Dwight Eisenhower in third place.

Lincoln is the top choice across all demographic and political groups. He is first among whites, 67%; Blacks, 51% (followed by Barack Obama); Trump voters, 68%; Republican voters, 69%; Biden voters, 61%; and Democratic voters, 61%.

“In an era rife with partisan polarization and racial strife, one issue that brings together Democrats and Republicans, Trump and Biden voters, and African Americans and whites is the strong belief that Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation, is the president that has done the most for African Americans,” says Tatishe Nteta, director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll and associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst.

President Trump, who has declared that he has, “done more for the Black community than any other president, and I say with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln,”did not rank among the top three presidents among African American voters. Trump receives zero first place votes and only 6% of second and third place votes among African American likely voters. Nteta says, “While President Trump has long touted his popularity in the African American community, not a single African American likely voter saw Trump as the most important president for the African American community and only a scattered few ranked Trump second or third.” 

The only groups that rank Trump in the top three were Republican and Trump likely voters. Among both Republicans and Trump voters, Trump received the most second place votes, 48%, followed by Eisenhower in third place. Nteta observes, “Partisanship is one hell of a drug. President Trump’s repeated statement that he, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, is the president who has done the most for the African American community, has resonated with his most loyal supporters as Trump voters and Republicans rank Trump as the second in a list of presidents that have done the most for the Black community.”


The University of Massachusetts Amherst Poll of 1,500 likely voters was conducted Oct. 20-27, 2020 by YouGov. YouGov interviewed 1,792 respondents who were then matched down to a sample of 1,667 registered voters and then subset on 1,500 likely voters to produce the final dataset. The likely voter subset included an oversample of 500 white voters with lower educational attainment.

The full set of survey starts were matched to a sampling frame of registered voters on gender, age, race, and education. The frame was constructed by stratified sampling from the registered voter portion of the 2016 Current Population Survey sample with selection within strata by weighted sampling with replacements (using the person weights on the public use file).

The matched cases were weighted to the sampling frame using propensity scores. The matched cases and the frame were combined and a logistic regression was estimated for inclusion in the frame. The propensity score function included age, gender, race/ethnicity, and years of education. The propensity scores were grouped into deciles of the estimated propensity score in the frame and post-stratified according to these deciles.

The weights were then post-stratified on 2016 Presidential vote choice, and a four-way stratification of gender, age (4-categories), race (4-categories), and education (4-categories). Finally, the weights were subset on likely voters and trimmed and re-centered to produce the final weight. The margin of error within this poll is 3.1%.

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll