How Many Presidents Served Two Terms: A Study of Presidential Success?

The presidency of the United States of America is one of the most prestigious positions in the world, you can find a plethora of information about past presidents and how they affected a country with a population of over 328 million people. However, not all presidents can acquire a second term, let alone complete it. Only a select few have served two full terms as the President of the United States. In this article, we will study the presidential success rate and how many presidents have served two terms.

The Background

The 22nd Amendment of the United States Constitution limits a president’s term to only two. The amendment was ratified in 1951 following the country’s longest-serving president, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death, who served four terms. Previously, there were no restrictions on the number of terms a person could serve. However, George Washington, the country’s first president, established the precedent of only serving two terms because it prevents autocratic power in the hands of a single person.

After Washington, several presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, upheld the two-term system. In fact, it became an unwritten rule until Roosevelt’s presidency. His service for four terms sparked concern, leading Congress to approve the amendment limiting a president’s term.

How Many Presidents Have Served Two Full Terms?

When we consider the history of the presidency, 13 presidents have served two full terms. Out of these 13, seven of them held office during the 20th century, meaning the modern era favors a second term. The chart below shows the first and last year of each president’s two terms of service.

President Term 1 Term 2
George Washington 1789 1793
Thomas Jefferson 1801 1805
James Madison 1809 1813
James Monroe 1817 1821
Andrew Jackson 1829 1833
Ulysses S. Grant 1869 1873
Woodrow Wilson 1913 1917
Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933 1937
Franklin D. Roosevelt 1937 1941
Franklin D. Roosevelt 1941 1945
Franklin D. Roosevelt 1945 1949
Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953 1957
Ronald Reagan 1981 1985
Ronald Reagan 1985 1989

Breaking Down the Data:

  • It is essential to note that Franklin D. Roosevelt served as President for four terms, making him the only president to serve more than two terms in U.S. history.
  • Two of the thirteen presidents who completed two full terms died in office during their second term. These presidents were Franklin D. Roosevelt, who passed away in 1945, and William McKinley when assassinated in 1901.
  • Three other presidents served two non-consecutive terms, grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897), returned, serving after Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893), whom he showed out of the presidency in the 1888 Election.
  • Finally, only two presidents tried, but were unable to complete two terms: Richard Nixon, who resigned during his second term, and George H.W. Bush, who lost his re-election bid after one term.

The Benefits of Serving Two Terms

The American electorate is an unpredictable variable, but the presidents who were able to complete two terms set their place in history. Completing two terms means the president served for an extended period, providing more opportunities to execute their policies, set more significant agendas, and accomplish more. Furthermore, it means that the president led the country through a successful second election cycle, albeit the challenges that come with campaigning while being the incumbent.

Additionally, there are benefits to completing two terms in that the president is known to be a more powerful and effective leader. This is because they earn more respect from their political peers, both nationally and internationally. A more established grip on power means implementing policies more effectively than a one-term president, who is often a lame duck President in the last year of their term. Lastly, two-term presidents align themselves with the legendary past presidents of the United States, counting themselves among the country’s bigger-than-life political leaders.


In conclusion, 13 U.S. presidents served two full terms, with different eras favoring double terms more than others. Understanding the history of U.S. presidential terms can indicate and show the importance of respecting tradition, the constitution, and the people’s will. Serving two terms means continuity, but it also means credibility for the nation’s highest office, affording them the opportunity to create a more significant legacy long after leaving the White House.


1. How many presidents served two terms in the 20th century?

Out of the 13 Presidents who completed two full terms, seven did so during the 20th century.

2. How long is a U.S. presidential term?

A presidential term within the United States is four years.

3. What is the significance of serving two terms as the President?

It means continuity and credibility for the nation’s highest office, giving the President an opportunity to create a larger legacy long after leaving the White House.

4. Why was the 22nd amendment ratified?

The 22nd Amendment of the United States Constitution limits a president’s term to only two, ratified to prevent autocratic power from concentrating into the hands of a single person.

5. Who was the only President to serve more than two terms, and which events led to that?

Franklin D. Roosevelt served as President four times, brought on by his response to the great depression and the country’s involvement in World War II.


  • George Washington’s Precedents. (n.d.). Mount Vernon.
  • US Constitution:Twenty-second Amendment. (n.d.). National Constitution Center – The Twenty-second Amendment. National Constitution Center.
  • Two terms as president. (2022, February 15). Presidential History Geeks.

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