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. Demigod Vadik, CA

    He will be among the bottom 5 Presidents the US has ever had...

    ...once this polarized generation is gone and people have a less biased view of Republican/Democrat early 2000's view...

    ...Bush is the man who brought you 9/11 attacks on US soil, 2 wars (1 absolutely unnecessary), dismal home response to Katrina, and a collapse of the whole US economy...

    ...one of the WORST Presidents ever...

    April 24, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  2. rousch15

    Bush never found Bin Laden, never found weapons of mass destruction (even had the gall to joke about it), never balanced a budget, never took advantage of the budget surplus that President Clinton left him, never helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina, never named the person who outed Valarie Plame, left the housing sector in shambles, and left the American automotive sector to die.

    What areas was he successful?

    April 24, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  3. QS

    This proves two things and two things only – conservatives are oblivious as to what W. actually did during his 8 years, and that Americans in general seem to have an even shorter memory than most would like to believe.

    April 24, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  4. Shawn Irwin

    Given that the majority of younger folks see him as a failure, it does not bode well for his legacy . . . . and that is good.

    April 24, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  5. EGB2

    How well regarded is Hoover today, or Lyndon Johnson's war policy? Bush started a pointless and avoidable war, and sponsored policies that drove a healthy economy off the cliff. He combines the worst elements of several failed presidencies.

    April 24, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  6. Ohmygoddess

    So remember people, Rupert Murdoch OWNS CNN, of course it's going to lead to the right side of a WHOLE lot of wrong when it comes to W Bush. CNN is nothing but Fox in disguise, that's what makes it dangerous...it's manipulative and makes liberals think that the world really is leaning toward the crazy, useless right...which of course we can see from the most recent Presidential LANDSLIDE election results...it isn't.

    April 24, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  7. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    America sure misses President Bush today more than ever. Common sense went out the window with his departure!

    April 24, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  8. MV

    This happens to every single president after they leave office. It's the same reason Reagan is now remembered as a great statesman, when in actuality he was the 2nd least popular postwar president (after Truman) by the end of his 2nd term.

    April 24, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  9. rousch15

    Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction, let Bin Laden attack us, let him escape, let the American car industry fall to its knees, let American families lose their homes, failed to take advantage of the Clinton surplus, destroyed our system of education (Every Child Left Behind), and left the American economy in its worst state since the Great Depression.

    Forget about show me the WMD. Show me the successes of GWB!

    April 24, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  10. becca

    Wow, he looks horrible. Now his outside matches his insides. tsk, tsk.......go away, forever, and take chainee w/ya.

    April 24, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  11. cp

    Another poll!!! You cannot measure a person's success, popularity or effectiveness using a poll. President Bush will be remembered as the man who chose to invade Iran even though the war in Afghanistan was not over and it remained a very active war zone. the longest wars in history will have an effect on his popularity.

    Historians will study his administration and sometime in the next 20 – 40 years or so they will give their opinion.Stay tuned!!

    April 24, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  12. oldowl

    I'm sure that "polls" have improved for Richard Milhous Nixon as well. But he was still a CROOK, and a paranoid and anti-American fool. Not even history or time can change that! Same, same with the proverbial village idiot, George W., the unindicted war criminal.

    April 24, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  13. joel palmer

    Looks like all the Bush supporters (all fifty of them) are online here. The rest of the world knows how awful he was and that will NEVER change

    April 24, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  14. mogran

    President Bush was a class act, Obama is an annoying clown in a job he doesn't know how to do.

    April 24, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  15. TKO

    Bush is a great success! Yay! Two unnecessary wars, huge debt, a demolished enonomy, 3000 dead in the WTC bombings, countless more in Irag, plummetting employment, rise in debt, drop GDP, drop in DOW.

    Obama is a failure: rising GDP, decreased debt, decreased unemployment, healthcare, ending two disastrous wars . . . boy you all have a weird way of measuring success and failure!

    April 24, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  16. KevininPHX

    I take solace in the fact that history will undoubtedly show President Bush to be, hands down, no contest, the worst President ever. His drunken spree through the US and the rest of the world that left 100's of thousands dead or maimed and left a country, The USA, a mere shell of its former self. But sure, what's not to like.

    April 24, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  17. Judith

    Bush a success? Americans must have collective amnesia to reach such a conclusion. Iraq is still seeing countless of deaths monthly from bombings in the wake of Bush's criminal invasion. We're still paying the trillion dollar cost and 4,000 American troops are lying cold stone dead in their graves due to Bush and Cheney. I will go to my grave despising this man and what he did to our country. His legacy is one of lies, death and disaster.

    April 24, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  18. Loathstheright

    Bush was a traitor, a war criminal, by far the worst President in modern history. Only a fool would think otherwise.

    April 24, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  19. jfig27

    A great success? really? by what standard? doubling of the national debt? taking us into a war on false pretenses to linne the pockets of his war mongering allies? or leaving the country in a near economic depression before he left? Yep, on all scores the gold medal goes to W. BTW i gave him my vote in 2000. Fool me once ......

    April 24, 2013 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  20. Loathstheright

    Most of the posts here are by the same gop troll, that's how they roll, they are dishonest even when posting.

    April 24, 2013 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  21. wjm

    Once again, it seems that the republicans have picked up that Alzheimer bug, because they certainly seem delusional. Memories of Gw are all wonderful, nothing but rainbows and lollipops. Boo! I'm trying to stop it like the hiccups, go away Alzheimer so they can return to reality. BOO! The same man that failed at every business venture his father set up for him. Has a constant look of surprise, wait I mean confusion. Hey somebody find Cheney so he can stick his hand up GW's butt and make him talk. If they were Boris and Natasha, GW would be Bullwinkle. He is a moron, he was a moron and will always be a moron. When they were handing out brains he thought they said trains and asked for a caboose.

    April 24, 2013 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  22. Dandy

    GWB was an utter failure.. I can't think of ANYTHING the guy did that could not have been done better by my then teenage daughter. He made huge mistakes regarding just about everything that was in his control. He will go down in history as one of the worse, if not the worse US President ever. He was and always will be a Loser.

    April 24, 2013 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  23. Edward Clark

    Anyone who would think or suggest that Bush was a success is a lunatic. Think about the wars & debts he incurred for this country. They misled this country into those senseless wars.How much dollars did we waste there which we could have used at home. These are the problems created by Bush now confronting Obama which he is trying fix.

    April 24, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Bush is an idiot and a war criminal who should be rotting in prison.

    April 24, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  25. happyhappyjoyjoy

    Bush was a joke, he waisted American life's and Money for what, oh ya WMD that Iraq never had. He manipulated and lied to every one, i feel sorry for anyone that believed in this guy. He was a failure, what did bush accomplish when he was in office nothing. And who ever voted for this smuck you guys are fools.

    April 24, 2013 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
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