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. Nate T

    Wow...how soon people forget! All I know is this, if there is alot of people out there who think GWB's presidency was a success, then President Obama's term will be off the charts! Better than Clinton's approval rating. That's ok, let those who think Bush's admin. was successful & want to blame the current woes of our Country on Pres. Obama. Those with any common sense, a brain know differently & the real truth!

    April 24, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  2. mb2010a

    It really depended on how the question as stated. If they had asked "Do you think the Presidency of George W. Bush was a success as a failure?" they would have gotten a more accurate response. BTW, the GWB Library is opening in Dallas today and tomorrow...they have only one book though..."My Little Pony".

    April 24, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  3. Rick H.

    Katya: There is a new criminal in town.....and his name be Barak Obama.

    April 24, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  4. Bubba Ray

    Cheney, whoops, I mean Bush, was the worst president ever. Funny how deficits matter now but they didn't when Cheney, umm, I mean Bush, was in charge.

    April 24, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  5. Marc in Texas

    Iraq was a mistake. Ruining the economy was a mistake. Ignoring intelligence about al Qaeda was a mistake. Tax cuts, favoring the wealthy and increasing the deficit during wartime was a mistake. Objectively, bush was a TERRIBLE president. In historical perspaective, he will have een a President roughly even with Herbert Hoover, at best (Hoover was another Republican, by the way). Look at the partisan divide on Clinton – a FAR better president than Bush, but kind of a personal failure. Nonetheless, he will always be ranked higher than Bush. Only stupidity, ignorance, memory loss, and partisan blindness could elevate Bush.

    April 24, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  6. Rob S

    History is kind to all ex-presidents. Even Nixon has gone through a change in perspective.

    April 24, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  7. Zoglet

    How about a poll to see how many thik he should stand trial for as a liar and war criminal?

    April 24, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  8. freedom

    Wonder what Obama's legacy will be – oh yeah – Obamacare which totally disables economic growth and the doctor/patient relationship as we know it. Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the world at record growth. Racial, economic, and gender divide like this country has never seen. Invasion of our constitutional rights at every level. US embassies without protection. White House doors being closed on the American people. This is just the beginning...

    April 24, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  9. SHills

    Nope! I haven't been polled. One of the worst Presidents we've had. But looking at documentaries...too many of them the last 30 years have not been good in terms of what is in the best interests of this country.

    April 24, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  10. hereintherealworld

    I sincerely think presidents get too much credit/blame. What about those 535 professional criminals in Congress?They have a huge hand in the country's success/failure.

    April 24, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. Bubba Ray

    "... while retaining an aire of prestige and wisedom. "

    Funny how a Bush supporter can't spell. Fool me once ...

    April 24, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. Rick H.

    Raj: I saw your post: "who dragged the country in at least one un necessary war, managed by chaos, divided the country that may never be healed, managed with religious believes, did not care for the constitution, lied to the country ."

    Why bash President Obama like that........

    April 24, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  13. Paul in NH

    WOW – talk about revisionist history – let's see -
    - budget surplus to deficit
    - doubled the debt (but deficits didn't matter then)
    - 2 unfunded wars – WMD anyone?
    - biggest terrorist attack on our soil despite intel that it was coming
    - administration outing a CIA agent because her husband wouldn't lie for him – who knows how many others were killed because of that
    - NCLB
    - Medicare 'donut' hole for prescriptions
    - Patriot Act and unconstitutional electronic surveillance along with immunity for the telecoms for letting him do it
    - tax cuts for all, but especially the rich
    - Alberto Gonzales and Mike Brown – Katrina anyone?
    - Supreme Court bought and paid for
    - TARP
    - unemployment tanking to the tune of 800K a month
    - all those Crawford vacations
    - war criminal (among others)

    just a smattering of the legacy of Bush 43 – sure none of which is being taught in US History classes south of the Mason-Dixon line – were any of these people that they asked alive from 2000-2008?

    April 24, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  14. supwithat

    People, please remember that before Bush:
    1. We were the world’s uncontested superpower.
    2. We had a budget surplus so big we were worrying about what to do with the money (remember “Save Social Security First”?)
    3. Most people around the world actually liked and respected us.

    Ahh, those were the good old days, folks. They will not return soon, if ever, because of George W Bush.

    What did Mr. Bush leave us?
    One big fat turd! You liked that? You liked the worst strike on our US soil since WWII all carried out by a few dozen men with Box Cutters? You liked being lied to, to frighten you into sending your sons and daughters off to be maimed and die in a bogus war against a military tactic? You liked having your plans for retirement trashed by a Stock Market crash and near depression? You would want to repeat that? How disillusioning so many of my fellow countrymen feel this way. Makes me fear for our future.

    Oh, and by the way, Bush and many of his cohorts are wanted for crimes against humanity in other parts of the world. They are afraid to travel outside the US for fear of being arrested. Poor Cheney, he can’t go fly fishing in Canada for fear of being arrested!

    April 24, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  15. DAT

    I still can't believe he got elected to a second term!

    April 24, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  16. Kraig Derstler

    Bush was an international embarrassment. I think it is likely that he will be remembered as an easily-led goober. Depending upon the future, his admin could easily be remembered as blood-soaked, with Bush guilty of crimes against humanity. His is responsible for a vast number of deaths in an unjustifable and unnecessary war. The figures are a little fuzzy, but it appears that W has more Iraqi blood on his hands that Saddam Hussein. Mission accomplished, little boy.

    April 24, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  17. BigJohnnyM

    Nice guy, lousy president. Two ten year wars and the economy took a big dump just before he left office. I see nothing to hang his hat on.

    April 24, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  18. California

    And This from a liberal poll.

    April 24, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. A Kickin` Donkey

    Historical Facts Part II.

    5) Bush is widely remembered for failed Leaddership during Hurricaine Katrina where thousands were stranded without adequate rescue/ relief from the Federal Government for as much as two weeks. Bush praised FEMA for doing a "heck-of-a-job" despite these failures. The iconic image of him flying over the affected states in AF One is a symbol of Presidential disconnection which successors use as a case study to avoid.

    6) The American Economy cratered in the last year of Bush`s presidency. Financial Institution like Bear Sterns & Lehman Brothers failed, and finacial insurers [like AIG] went begging for bailouts. Rather than letting TRUE capitalism run its course [and these firm perish, employees lose jobs & equity holder be wipped out], Bush put federal tax dollars behind these freewheeling "casino" enterprises to save those interests. He made the term "Privitize the Profits but Socialize the Losses" common for big business.

    7.) International respect for the Office of the Presidency sunk to new lows as Bush was the first American President to have shoes hurled at him while traveling abroad. Polling in Britain, France. Germany & Japan among their citizens showed the lowest levels of esteem for the American Presidency since Richard Nixon.

    April 24, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. Joe Schmoe

    He is a war criminal. And so are the people at cnn who spread his lies

    April 24, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  21. Jeffrey Todd Russell

    8 out of 10 Republicans thought Bush was a success.Needless to say this is why we will not see a Republican president for a very long time.He was by far the worst American in American history.No I am not a Democrat , I am a Independent , (That means that I can think for myself ) You know the party that actually decides who is president

    April 24, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  22. kathy

    THE worst president in modern times. Took us into a war unjustly for the sake of oil and money. Was basically a puppet at the hands of his Gepetto Cheney. They cost the country billions of dollars in a war against a country who didn't attack while ignoring and not pursuing Al Qaeda that was in Afghanistan. Cost the lives of thousands of soldiers and Iraqi's while wiping out the surplus left behind by Clinton and dragging us into the worst economic situation since the Depression. So WHAT'S the question? Frankly, I think him, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove should be tried as war criminals. He was a stupid man...really....not smart. He embarrassed the USA everytime he opened his mouth to misspeak.

    April 24, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  23. WisconsinBadger

    You need reasons his presidency was a failure? 4,409 US lives lost in Iraq, not to mention all that were physically and/or mentally wounded. Then there were more than 100,000 coalition, civilian and enemy lives lost. All for the sake of Bush trying to finish the job his dad couldn't. We all know that and that we should have focused on Afghanistan, immediately after 9/11. I won't go into how he approach Hurricane Katrina, immigration, and the economy. Enough said – Total Failure!

    April 24, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  24. Irwin

    Outside of being a war criminal, he arguably missed the signs for the 9/11 attacks, contributed greatly to the Great Recession, kept the two wars off the books (whatever that insanity is all about), and gave us a drug plan which doesn't allow negotiation of prices with the drug companies. So in what universe was he a successful president!? I'm starting to think the American people have the attention span of a gnat!

    April 24, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  25. pws

    CNN...interesting that you choose to write about Bush and two negative pieces on Rand Paul when the Benghazi report is released that exposes Hillary Clinton as a liar. Interesting that you choose not to write about that. Also, how about writing about the security breakdown under Obama's watch that allowed these Boston terrorists to remain in this country when we were warned by the Russians. Why not also write about welfare reform...and the fact that these clowns who terrorized Boston were on public assistance programs.

    April 24, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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