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. Aaron from Ohio

    I'm a democrat but had always considered Carter the worst president in my lifetime. I also think he has been the best ex-president we've had because of his charity work. Dubya has moved into Carter's old spot. Sorry Jimmy...you're number two now. Historians in the future might have a different view of Bush II in the future. It's just those of us alive now that look at him as a disaster. I agree with many of the posters on here that the ex-presidents look better because of how bad W. has been. If Obama is even a mediocre president during his first term he will be re-elected because even mediocre will appear to be outstanding when compared to our out-going president.

    January 7, 2009 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  2. AL

    After watching 8 years of GWB in action I would have to think that would make anyone's ratings go up.
    I didn't think they came any worse than Carter but GWB was able to make him look smarter.

    January 7, 2009 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  3. Bruce

    Q: Why does Jimmy Carter keep calling GW Bush "The worst president we've ever had?"

    A: Because he's been trying to get rid of the title for thirty years.

    January 7, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  4. That Other Jerry

    Susie, I commend you on your wonderful use of the English language. It was such a breath of fresh air compared to the usual mangled, misspelled, kindergarten-level tirades one usually has to suffer through in this forum. In fact, it was so well-written I could almost overlook the fact that almost every word of it was dead wrong. But thanks anyway for misstating the facts in such a thoughtful manner.

    January 7, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  5. S Callahan

    Our current President reminds of the one child in the family who was the deliquent teen..but then..just nearing adulthood surprises everyone and does the right thing....sort of they way his legacy will be remember years from now because of his recent Enviromental legislation. That was truely a biggie that won't be realized until years later.

    I always thought Pres. Carter was on the side of God, or is that God on the side of Carter, and it fits Biblically as most people did not agree with is stance in the beginning and are only now starting to see his vision was really right.

    Though most people adored Pres. Clinton as I initally did I have been disturbed by his poor moral choices and it's impact on our country...
    as well, never satisfied with the response of the man who mysteriously died early in his adminstration. He was gifted by God with such intelligency...perhaps he can now use those gifts to get it all right in consult with his wife (SOS).

    Daddy Bush viewed the office as a corporation and an entitlement to his boys....is that really the memory you want to leave history? I have struggled to see him any other way...

    PE Obama has been fourtunate with the turn of times..but if we really look at history..including Bibical..he has quite a calling to adhere too and grave consequences for any failure.....He'll need our prayers.

    So, did CNN Science tech send any of those robo recording flies to the meeting and get the scoop? :-)

    January 7, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  6. Joe - Chicago, IL

    Carter is being largely vindicated by history. He tried to put into place preventative measures 30 years ago, these measures he tried to put in place are now being ressurected as emergency fixes. We can only wonder what the world would be like now if Reagan didn't undo the progress Carter made. His work after he left office showed that Carter was not only a good president, but a great man.

    George H. W. Bush, while I have many policy disagreements with the man, was a moderate and a pragmatist. He did things carefully and well, if only he could have taught that method to his son before he took office.

    I do find it Ironic that of the five presidents in my life time, the two who only had one term rank the highest.

    January 7, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. Erika, KS

    Yes, well, time was kind to Nixon as well. People have short memories. Let's hope that we all remember how George W Bush screwed up the country and world because of his policies, greed and stupidity. It will takes a decade to fix his mess. Let us NOT forget.

    January 7, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  8. Michael Dunn

    Okay lets get to the real reason....Compared to "W" any past president looks really really good; naturally their numbers have gone up we've now had an an example of truly incompetent.

    January 7, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  9. BS not Maverick

    Let's all play nice , We are Americans first!

    January 7, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. obama-mama

    I loved president Carter. Too bad he's not getting his props until now....

    January 7, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  11. jeff

    Who are they polling about Jimmy Carter? That's a joke that 64% approve of the job he did now...he was the worst president in modern times (yes even worse then Bush 43).

    January 7, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  12. MBuvia Greenwood,IN

    G W will not be that lucky-of course the other 2 Presidents didn't try to destroy the Constitution and the country.

    January 7, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  13. Larry in Houston

    Bush was the worst / not to mention the Dumbest one.....Then NIXON was the 2nd worst......Bush # 1 wasn't exactly good, either......He was also a puppet for the Republicans.....

    Larry C.
    Houston, Texas
    (where money is still flowing like water)
    (no recession here)

    January 7, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  14. Southerner

    Carter was by far a worse president than Bush, or Nixon, or any other US president. Unfortunately, many people have short memories.

    January 7, 2009 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  15. Slash

    My first research paper on Polk back in high school showed me just how dark our history is. And as someone who lived through our modern-day Polk's bloody reign, I will never forget.

    I pray that George Bush and those who served him are charged and convicted for all of their barbarisms and atrocities. And history will not be kind to this monster-what we already know about his administration sends chills through us, but the probes of history may reveal far more than we ever wanted to know.

    January 7, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  16. Steve in Arizona

    For everyone bad-mouthing former President Carter, remember this (and YES, I was an adult during his presidency):

    The Repblican-controlled Congress blocked almost every piece of legislation that he tried to introduce.

    His energy plans are now being enacted. He was far ahead of his time.

    He had the audacity to tell the American people that they shared some of the blame and burden of the economy.

    He has done more for Middle Eastern peace than any president in the history of the country. Read up on the Camp David Peace Accords and educate yourself.

    So much of what people blame President Carter for, he had no control over.

    January 7, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  17. Norom

    David January 7th, 2009 8:55 am ET

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

    Right, having your home foreclosed on, or having no job is SO much
    better than 20% interest.

    January 7, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  18. Rick

    My oh my what short memories we have. Here's a little refresher....Jimmy Carter was absolutely the worst president in the history of this great nation.

    January 7, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. John from SC

    Time must be kind... George H. W. looks younger (in some ways) than George W.

    January 7, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  20. Brian From Fort Mill, SC

    I'd give George Bush higher marks than I did in 1992, but I still think that Jimmy Carter sucks. And I'm a democrat!

    January 7, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  21. Mike, Syracuse NY

    @Norom and TCM:
    Under Carter unemployment was 10% (it's 6.7% now)
    Inflations was double digits
    Interest rates hit 21.5%
    We had the Iranian hostage crisis
    We gave away the Panama Canal
    He pardoned Vietnam draft dodgers, who should have rotted in Canada
    There were gas lines (never happned this time)

    Carter is definitely in the running for worst US President.

    January 7, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  22. Brian From Fort Mill, SC

    As I look back at Jimmy Carter, I still give him very low marks because of his ineffectiveness.

    But I give W even lower marks because of his lack of intelligence, his stubbornness and his deer-in-the-headlights approach to problem solving. A reporter once asked him if he regretted any of his decisions, and he couldn't even think of any!

    Carter was bad, but you have to admit that some of his problems were beyond his control, like the Iranian hostage crisis. He tried to free them, but failed. He also had to deal with high inflation, which is followed by high interest rates.

    January 7, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  23. Charles Atlanta

    It has reason behind these opinions. The current mess in Iraq shows the wisdom of Bush Sr and his leadership of desert storm operation. Jimmy Carter has done lots of humanity work after his persidency. So people has positive feeling on him as a person.

    January 7, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  24. Bob

    Common CNN, tell the truth. Give us the actual question(s) asked in your poll and what the responses were on each question. I can see JC getting favorable ratings as a person, not as a president.

    January 7, 2009 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  25. Rick

    To TCM:

    Were you alseep during Carter's presidency? Here's the facts:

    -Believe it or not, Iran was a staunch ally of ours until Carter allowed the Shah to be deposed and the Ayatollah Khomeini to take power which gave birth to the whole Islamic revolution and all of the problems that has followed.
    -The inflation rate during Carter's presidency was up to 12%
    -The unemployment rate during Carter's presidency was up to 7.7%
    -Interest rates during Carter's presidency was up to 20%

    The Carter presidency was the definition of failure.

    January 7, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
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