CNN Poll: How will history remember George W. Bush?
April 24th, 2013
04:00 PM ET
12 months ago

CNN Poll: How will history remember George W. Bush?

Washington (CNN) - Was George W. Bush's presidency a success or failure?

A new national poll suggests it depends on who's answering the question.

A CNN/ORC International survey indicates wide partisan and generational divides when it comes to rating Bush's years in the White House. And according to the poll, released Wednesday on the eve of the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, views of his presidency among all Americans are starting to improve.

"It's likely that time will only improve his standing in the public's eye," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Although a majority of Americans still call him a failed president, the number who believe that 43rd president was a failure has dropped significantly since he left office."

Fifty-five percent of those questioned say Bush's presidency was a failure, down 13 percentage points since a CNN poll conducted in January, 2009, during his final days in office. Forty-two percent now say Bush's presidency was a success, up 11 points from when he left the White House.

When it comes to Bush, Democrats and Republicans still don't see eye to eye. Eight in ten Republicans now say that Bush's eight years in office were a success, but that number drops to 43% among independents. Only 13% of Democrats agree, with nearly nine in ten Democrats saying the Bush presidency was a failure.

"There is a big generation gap as well, with most senior citizens giving Bush's years in office positive reviews, but two-thirds of younger Americans say he was a failed president," adds Holland.

The survey also points to a geographical divide, with those living in urban areas giving Bush a thumbs down, and suburbanites and rural Americans divided.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center includes a library, museum, and a public policy center. America's 43rd president will be joined at the dedication ceremony by President Barack Obama, and former presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Bush's second term was one of the most unpopular in modern times. His approval rating stood at 31% in a CNN poll conducted at the time he left office and it was at 33% in an ABC News/Washington Post survey. The post-presidency uptick for Bush's numbers seen in the CNN poll is also registering in an ABC News/Washington Post survey on Bush's approval rating, which now stands at 47%.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from April 5-7, with 1,012 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (623 Responses)
  1. Ed

    The smartest thing he did since leaving office was to stay away from the public eye. He doesn't campaign, he doesn't endorse. Because when people see him, they remember how poorly he spoke, and how misdirected his leadership was.

    April 24, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "A new national poll suggests it depends on who's answering the question."

    Freekin shocking. No. Truly. Let us all bask in the infogasm afterglow that such a novel and unexpected revelation should engender in all of us.

    CNN: the un-journalism.

    April 24, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  3. Al-NY,NY

    the difference in the numbers from Repo's to Independents shows that he WAS a failure. The sheep would give him the OK no matter what

    April 24, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  4. Russell

    Views tend to soften over time, but he was still the President that foolishly and stupidly got us into a war in Iraq that was totally unjustified. A more intelligent and experienced president would have dug deeper behind the scenes and found the truth about the "intelligence" and nixed the idea. But he just blindly accepted what was put on his desk.

    April 24, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  5. Shelby

    Bush is and was a total failure!

    April 24, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  6. MHS

    Of course he is starting to look better based on the past 5 years. When folks said things can't get any worse they must not of had Obama in mind.

    April 24, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "It's likely that time will only improve his standing in the public's eye," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

    followed by

    "There is a big generation gap as well, with most senior citizens giving Bush's years in office positive reviews, but two-thirds of younger Americans say he was a failed president," adds Holland.

    Nope...no cognitive dissonance here....pay no attention to the self-contradictory statements....look over there...SQUIRREL!!!

    April 24, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. Data Driven

    Let's see: asleep at the chickenswitch on 9/11/01, unjustified war on Iraq placed on a credit card rather than as a line item in the Federal budget, an obsolete education initiative (NCLB), jihadists in illegal limbo at Gitmo, breaking of Geneva Conventions protocols against torture, encouragement of a "ownership society" in which every burger-flipper bought homes they couldn't afford, which created a real estate bubble that cratered the economy. How am I modulating so far, good buddy?

    Well, he gave money to Africa for AIDS relief.

    April 24, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Bush's second term was one of the most unpopular in modern times."

    Yes it was. All the polling and re-righting of history will never make George W. Bush a positive influence on America. Or the world.

    April 24, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  10. Matt

    The poll was conducted in dallas, tx... It's so biased.

    April 24, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    Should have be "re-writing" ... not "re-righting". Although in retrospect, GW did re-right the right ... backwards.

    April 24, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  12. Randy, San Francisco

    Not enough time has passed to judge his presidency with any objective detachment. Besides...are they (neoconservatives) still looking for WMDs in Iraq?

    April 24, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  13. wrm

    It's funny that people see a distinction between the two, especially to the extent that this survey suggestions. Sounds to me like it's more about "my guy winning" than "my guy's policies."

    April 24, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House

    Set aside 9/11, lying us into war & a horrible federal response to a natural disaster, I think history will judge him unfavorably solely based on the FACT that his POLICIES brought this country to the brink of financial destruction.

    April 24, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. Mancy Grace

    Worst. President? EVER!!!!!

    April 24, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  16. The Real Tom Paine

    "A new national poll suggests it depends on who's answering the question."

    And a study needed to be done to confirm that? My daughter in Middle School could have figured that out, with far less time and money than CNN took. This is FOX-style journalism: in other words, a waste.

    April 24, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. Chode McBlob

    The longer Obama is in office, the better EVERY president before him looks.

    April 24, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. ellid

    @Data Driven – by any objective standard, Bush was the worst President since Herbert Hoover. History will not be kind to him.

    April 24, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  19. Blue

    Bush failed in every respect. He all most brought our country to its knees. If VP Gore had been able to take his position as President, we would never have been in this dire situation that Bush and Cheney caused. Stealing never pays off.

    April 24, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. Matt

    When Bush left office I thought there could be no president who would do worse... yet Obama seems to be using W has a benchmark for what to achieve. America seems to like being ruled over by men who only see power as the goal and not the welfare of the republic.

    April 24, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  21. yo!

    Not sure he was ever in control as the President.
    At least he maintained his dignity by staying private during his retirement.

    April 24, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  22. navyairvet

    Compared to Obama, he was a sucess. The Dems know we were all better off then. What's in our future now more food stamps?

    April 24, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  23. Who Knows

    Polls improve? Parts of the population is apparently suffering from Alzheimer's.

    April 24, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  24. BIG MEL

    Shelby you probably think the current President is a success. Just think if Bush was bad what people will be saying about the current peice of work.

    April 24, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  25. Rick

    Worst President...ever!

    April 24, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
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