January 7th, 2009
07:56 AM ET
3 years ago

Time kind to former presidents, CNN poll finds

Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, left, and Jimmy Carter can smile now about their performance in polls.
Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, left, and Jimmy Carter can smile now about their performance in polls.

(CNN) – A new national poll appears to validate the adage that time heals all wounds, at least when it comes to two former presidents of the United States.

Sixty percent of Americans questioned in a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday morning say they approve of how George H.W. Bush handled his job as president, and 64 percent give a thumbs up to former President Carter.

Watch what time does to presidents in office

Those numbers are about double the approval ratings each had when he was voted out of office after one term.

"Time has been kind to the former presidents," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director. "Carter's approval rating was just 31 percent on the eve of the 1980 election, and was at 34 percent in late December of that year, the last measure taken during his presidency. But now 64 percent approve of how Carter handled his job as president."

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Filed under: CNN poll
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. David

    Most of those polled probably never lived through the Carter horror show. Can you say 20% interest on mortgages?

    January 7, 2009 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  2. NYDEM

    People have very, very short memories. That is why we continue to vote in corrupt politicians and accept ethically-challenged elected officials as the norm. After all, everybody does it.

    January 7, 2009 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  3. joseph

    If you ask people who didnt live at the time these fools were president sure. But if you look at what they did and whos interest and what shape they our country was in when they left office which is what history looks at our current president bush is worse in my life of 55 yrs his dad second carter third and than nixon . Kennedy was good, johnson ok, clinton best for country My pool shows democrates better for our country...

    January 7, 2009 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  4. arc, Lugano CH

    NY republican: I agree with you. Carter has gone on to do great things as well as Bush and Clinton, through their work with Tsunami relief.

    I am opposed to many of GWB policies, but his work in reference to AIDS in Africa is one achievement that is often undeservedly overlooked.

    January 7, 2009 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  5. gary from atlanta

    It is just another failure of our academic process and an incompetent media. People are not taught or reminded just how bad the Carter administration was. I am sure the liberal media and teachers will not fail to constantly remind us how evil W was.

    January 7, 2009 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  6. Ray Fisher

    As we are nearing adding another ex-President to the pile, I'm hoping an indictment will provide his legacy. Just yesterday, he appointed 45 positions in an in your face parting gesture to President Obama who doesn't need any additional hurdles yet Georgie is determined to bury our nation and walk off unscathed. I would love to see Obama knock Georgie out on the White House lawn or at least present him with an indictment at the swearing in ceremony!!!

    January 7, 2009 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  7. Sweetie

    I'll take several grains of salt with that!

    The Carter years where pure HELL and I haven't ever talked with a person who thought otherwise!

    The Bush Sr. years where Scary.....we would be told one thing and then suddenly the opposite was done.

    January 7, 2009 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  8. STEVE R

    all this does not matter...Obama will save us all

    however, he stills owes me a check

    January 7, 2009 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  9. Minnesotan

    Of course their numbers have risen. When an absolute failure like Bush Junior comes along, it automatically makes everyone else look better.

    January 7, 2009 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  10. Murph

    Many of the people giving those approval ratings to Carter were not around for his mortgage rates of 15 to 18%. Inflation was so bad if you pciked up a loaf of bread for $1 when you entered the store it as $1.50 by the time you hit the checkout line. He also was in charge when he allowed the Iranians to hold our citizens hostage forever. His admin was one of inaction to any problem. I believe he is being judged by his humanitarian work rather than his presidency.

    January 7, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  11. Major

    Carter is the biggest joke in United States history.
    US lost it's credibility around the world during his presidency.
    The rise of Islamist terror groups in Middle East.
    US lost Iran, Lebanon and Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

    January 7, 2009 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  12. Jim

    Carter's approval rating improved because many of the raters are too young to remember what kind of a president he really was or possibly have let that "good old days" mentality coloud their memory.

    My impression (having lived throught the Carter years as an adult) was that he was one of the 2 worst presidents of the 20th century but he was a decent man. However, seeing some of his actions in he last few years, I have begun to doubt his decency as well.

    January 7, 2009 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  13. frankie

    Carter's approval rating is from Habitat for humanity...not the presidency!
    Bush 41 did a great job with the Gulf War....and our gratitud was to not vote him back in
    Clintin did nothing (Ruanda, Alqaeda,etc) (abused and destroyed the life of a young intern)...and we think he is great, amazing!
    Bush 43 showed true leadership in very difficult times....and we just don't appreciate it (stupidity, ignorance or both)
    kept us safe, help with aids, malaria, environment...nothing that he does is good enough
    we are told by the "media" that he is "bad" and some just beleive it
    what is the approval rating of american citizens? zero!
    we forgot the fundamentals of our nation
    and we vote in a PR product with no roots in the struggle of Black Americans Go figure!

    January 7, 2009 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  14. JB

    The Bush admin was so bad that even after all of us that lived through the Bush admin are dead, the videos the documentation on Bush will still be around to tell the real story. There's not enough years or ignorance to whitewash the Bush admin with positive spin.

    January 7, 2009 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  15. MurphyMorseJohnson

    While an average poll may forgive and forget presidential deeds, bona fide historians and historiographers will not be so generous.

    January 7, 2009 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  16. Last Honest man

    Cater was a horrible President

    January 7, 2009 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  17. Algernon

    Could these results be influenced by the timing, i.e., the end of a very unpopular presidency?

    January 7, 2009 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  18. Dawn

    Oh boy, I wonder if they will give PE Obama words of wisdom.

    1. Jimmy Carter: a dweeb, remembering 52 American Hostages.

    2 G.H.Bush: Persian Gulf War and read my lips no new taxes.

    3. Bill Clinton: zippergate, but did leave us a surplus of what 7 trillion dollars?

    4. G.W. Bush: let us in debt, that our children's children, children will have a hard time paying it off, two wars, health care in turmoil, no jobs, foreclosers, torture, and spying on Americans and saying we need to keep our Country safe,

    President -Elect, you are on your own, Goddess help you.

    January 7, 2009 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  19. James

    Yeah, we all think so highly of Herbert Hoover...?

    January 7, 2009 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  20. NEL E BELL

    I REMEMBER BOTH VERY WELL, CARTER IS A GOOD MAN BUT LETS FACE FACTS AS A PRESIDENT, HE WAS NOT VERY GOOD INFLATION, HIS MORAL LECTURES ETC., WERE A DRAG OF COURSE HE INHERITED ALOT FROM THE POST VIET NAM PRESIDENT NIXON. BUSH #1, I WAS DOWN SIZED REMEMBER THAT PHRASE, UNDER 1, LIKE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS PER WEEK, AND HIS POP CORN FART OF DESERT STORM WAS NOT FINISHED AND #2, TRIED TO BEST HIS FATHER. LETS BE REAL THE BUSH'S ARE NOT LEADERSHIP MATERIAL THEY ARE MORE FOR THE RICH THAN MOST AMERICANS. ;-(

    January 7, 2009 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  21. Gail

    It's so wonderful people are engaged and paying attention to our elected 'leaders'.

    Maybe we don't always get it exactly right, and everyone has an opinion. But Politicians beware,

    WE ARE WATCHING YOU NOW AND PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU'RE DOING. (I'm shouting) Better get it right or you'll be voted out of office.

    January 7, 2009 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  22. Gail

    the USA citizens will never be kind to the Idiot W. Except of course he sheep or the millionaires he helped get richer. Thank god there's more of us than them.

    January 7, 2009 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  23. Kevin in Ohio

    Just to refresh everyone's memory..... the woes of the late 70's were all OUR fault (Americans) according to Jimmy "I'll never lie to you" Carter in his "malaise" speech. And he started the ball rolling on appeasemant as an international policy. Worst president EVER.

    January 7, 2009 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  24. SandraD

    "...know you all at CNN have been pampering him like a baby instead you all should have been digging into every move he made much the same as you’re doing to Obama now..." You've got to be kidding!!! Yes, they 'dig' into Obama – with a positive spin on the most mundane of activities. No one trumpets Obama louder or more positively than the liberal media (of which CNN is top dog)

    January 7, 2009 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  25. Susie

    Funny how the "conservative, Christian" Republicans blast the only truly Christian President we have had–Jimmy Carter. He ran afoul of the media because he tried his best to follow Christ...someone GWB could never emulate, nor does he want to! Bombings, torture, shredding the Constitution to advance your agenda-these are acts of fascism, not Christianity.
    GWB will be remembered for what he is-a lying, manipulative, insecure, power-hungry man who did his very best to ruin this country. We will not recover from his machinations for decades. And if and when people are ready to hear the truth about what went on behind closed doors, they will realize that he should have been jailed for his treasonous behaviors. Amazing that Clinton is impeached for a personal failure, but Bush smirks his way out of Washington having tortured, bombed innocent people, ruined our financial health, and says "So what?"

    January 7, 2009 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
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