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. Peter Gerdeman

    @PaulSteinhauser: GWB will never overcome his role in the War in Iraq. N-e-v-e-r. His misrepresentations to the world led us into war – with no WMD ever found. 4,000 US dead, 30,000 US wounded, 100,000 Iraqi dead, and over $2T (yes, trillions) spent on the nation's credit card. And the incompetence to take a "short" war into eight years. For the record, I was registered as a Republican for 40+ years, retired twice, vet of two wars. Quit trying to handle his PR, Paul.

    April 24, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  2. Rob

    Probably, Bush rating improved when people compare his term with Obama. His rating will improve further by the time Obama completes his second term!

    April 24, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  3. LearnUSA

    So long as people in the future are not as brain washed by the media as they are now. I think President Bush was amazing considering all of the things he had to face including the country being attacked. He still remained humble and human. He never acted as though we were his subjects but always as though he had a job to do for us and he did it the best way that he could. He did not treat the presidency like a paid vacation.

    April 24, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  4. McRCN

    So Bush's approval is 42% and improving. Obama's has been around 47-50% this year, so there is not much difference between the 2 Presidents. No surprise there. Our country needs a real leader and there is no one in sight at the moment.

    April 24, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  5. Steve Allard

    The US economy was trashed on his watch and it will take several decades to get us back to where we were when he took office, I look at that as somewhat of a failure.

    April 24, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  6. Alexander

    Americans have short memories. They seem to have forgotten:
    - no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
    - 4,500 U.S. deaths in Iraq
    - $2 Trillion dollars wasted in Iraq
    - Torture authorized
    - Increased National Debt 16% (Perc of GDP)
    - Financial Crisis

    April 24, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  7. Chris Boston

    Sounds like Nate has been underground for a few years. Obama has spent more than all Presidents combined already. When any situations arise you can find him out playing golf. He does absolutely nothing. The only reason N.Korea and other countries are talking so uch crap is that they know wee have a weak President in office.

    April 24, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  8. seriously?

    Third generation criminal!

    April 24, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  9. G2

    History will judge GWB as the worst American President, second only to Hoover.

    April 24, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Lauradet

    I don't know how Bush's approval has improved. When CNN posted the story people were slamming Bush as he worst president in history. Could it be CNN is posting inaccurate facts again or are they trying to twist public opinion to give the creepy former president a chance to redeem his horrible legacy.

    April 24, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. Binga Linga

    The most incompetent American president ever! His ratings were so abysmal how could they not improve with the short memories of voters.

    April 24, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. dick Delson

    There was only one President in my lifetime who was worse than George W. Bush. Richard Nixon who was the only President in history to be kicked out of office.

    April 24, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. Mike

    Are you kidding? They're all virtually the same. Our "elected officials" are OBVIOUSLY preselected (as in an arranged marriage) by big business. Anyone notice the amount of campaign funds Obama amassed? Interesting too how some of these same firms did not pay federal income taxes, through international subs and "money transfer exchange". It's all more of the same. Bush, he's a freaking criminal and outright lied to the American public. Of course, you believed that if you truly believe we live in a democracy, that we actually went to war in Iraq for something besides control of oil and strategic military locations in the Middle East. Study up. Nothing has changed. Since we went off the Gold Standard in 71', we are on a downhill slope the devaluation of the dollar. And let's talk international debt while we're at it. While big business fails to pay federal income taxes (thus in great part, our current deficit), our politicians are puppets. I love my country. Though we are (and as stated above) condemned previously by the World Court for our acts of terrorism. Of course we vetoed that because we are in fact, quite powerful today. It's an insane cycle that will result in the US no longer being the dominant world power. Come on. Read more. Amazing how his good buddy has reaped huge financial benefit from the reconstruction of a country we destroyed for control of oil.

    April 24, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. Steve

    To Obamy. When you get a healthy country and you leave it in a lurch you have failed. That would be Bush.
    When you get a sick country, give it CPR and things get better you are doing well. That would be Obama.
    You can have an opinion but that does not mean they are based on reality.

    April 24, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. dallas.alphonso

    The same brain dead people who elected Bush are the same ones who are supporting him now. He oversaw the largest transfer of public funds into private hands in the human history; that's right your hard earned tax money was given to rich under the disguise of the Iraq war, what a farce.

    April 24, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  16. R. Perry

    President Obama has done more for this country since President Rooselvelt. He could do even more if he had the support 0f the Congressman. If they truly cared about American citizens, they would vote for the people instead of voting against President Obama.

    April 24, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. rosethornne

    Bush was a disaster.
    He ranks right down there with Nixon and Reagan for policies that destroyed the economy.

    April 24, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  18. Thinkergal

    Nothing will ever rehabilitate W's reputation, image, or the facts of how badly he damaged this nation–period.

    April 24, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. Mary

    I think it tells you alot when Bush was too ashamed to show his face the last couple of years. And...the only time he did was to promote his library. Hmmm..interesting.
    He should have been impeached for lying to our country, having thousands of military personel killed, and on top of it, to stay in a war to make more money for himself & his buddies in the oil business. He probably even used the money he made towards building his library, which contains full of lies...& he just keeps on lying!
    We impeached President Clinton for lying but he didn't have thousands killed in a made up war for his own agenda!

    April 24, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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
    -------------------------------------------------
    So true, so true.

    April 24, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  21. gahh

    Bush was the one to tell inspectors in Iraq, to get out, because they were in the way of his war. Did you know Bush gave Iraq, 867 billion of our tax dollars, he didn't loan, he gave? He gave Wall Street almost a trillion dollars in their, to big to fail horse crap, and all he got was a 3 hundred million dollar lie-bary.

    April 24, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  22. The GOP need to pack up and leave

    Bush was a failure. Completely and utterly. There's no doubt about it and no one can argue otherwise.

    At least we have a good president now who's done a good job.

    April 24, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  23. Texas

    Turned a huge Surplus into Giant deficits, Deregulated everything and gutted all Watchdog agencies leading to the worst Economic, Stock, Real Estate Crashes in our history. Literally turned every Ally of ours against us. Disregarded his own Terrorism Czar about an imminent attack with planes to take a month long vacation, leaving 9-11 in his wake . Started 2 Unfunded wars that cost 4,000 American G.I.'s their lives and squandered $1 Trillion dollars. broke nearly every Treaty we had and tried to justify murder and torture as virtuous ways to interrogate prisoners making us as bad as them, etc...

    April 24, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  24. Gary

    Peoples view of Shrub are going up because people are glad to see him in the rear view mirror as many will be when Obummer is gone. I didn't vote for either of them. Bush will forever be linked to his two wars and Obama to how the economy turns out at the end of his second term.

    April 24, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Think about it:
    An American PRESIDENT cannot travel abroad for fear of being arrested for crimes against humanity.

    Something to think about.

    April 24, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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