January 7th, 2009
07:56 AM ET
11 years ago

Time kind to former presidents, CNN poll finds

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/07/polls.former.presidents/art.presidents.afp.gi.jpg caption="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. Grog in Ohio

    Actually, the current president has set the bar so low, almost any other presidency will look like a glaring success. Even Carter can thank DUHbya for making him look good.

    13 days till the end of the Bush administration.

    January 7, 2009 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  2. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Time will still say George W. Bush was the worst president in history. There is no way to erase his multitude of failures to our country.

    January 7, 2009 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  3. Alan

    Yeah, the presidents from the recent past all look a lot better since "W" lowered the bar.

    January 7, 2009 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  4. larry

    The problem isn't our leaders, it is we voting citizens. We know that there is no free lunch and that debt is not a good thing, yet we allow our leaders to do it anyway.
    Our grand children, great grand children and great-great childeren are going to hate for our being so irresponsible.

    January 7, 2009 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  5. Newport News, VA

    I don't think George W. Bushs' ratings are going in the near future. The most significant thing he's done is keep us safe from another terrorist attack. History may look at him favorable for that, but it won't forget all the other malarky he's gotten us into. If he gets higher than a 40% approval rating I'll be shocked.

    January 7, 2009 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  6. Joe the Troll

    ""W"'s approval rating will climb to 100%, when Americans one day look back on how well he protected the country through 2 terms in office, after 9-11."

    Only if they forget, as you obviously have, that his administration allowed the attack to happen after being warned about it.

    January 7, 2009 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  7. Tom in S.A.

    Wasn't there a guy named Reagan in between these two, I believe his rating would be way above those mentioned, but can't have that put in writing on CNN. If we'd just follow his example, we'd be better off. Bush II ratings will go up in time no matter how bad Dem's and the media have treated him.

    Wonder what congress' ratings have been over the last 30 yrs.....

    January 7, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  8. Ken in Dallas

    GWB2012 January 7th, 2009 8:47 am ET

    It's fun sitting back now and watching all the in fighting among the dems right now. It's like the Beverly Hillbillies moved to Washington.

    It's really funny to watch Republicans brag about how THEIR kind of democracy doesn't have any of this messy debate stuff in it, and how they NEVER compromise.

    Personally, I prefer actual democracy, but to each his own.

    January 7, 2009 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  9. Super D

    Next time you pump gas. Remember back in the 70's, that was a 2 hour ordeal, thanks to Jimmie and his 64% approval rating.


    January 7, 2009 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  10. Anonymous

    Anyone who can read and differentiate fact from fiction (clearly not all the posters here) will understand the difference between 2 bungled presidencies of the past and the sheer disaster of the present. Would anyone with a brain and a house and a retirement account, not to mention an awareness of the world outside our borders, prefer our present predicament to the end of either old Bush or Carter's presidency? It wasn't rosey, but I'd jump at the chance to get there than here. Obviously GWB has lowered the standard to such a level that even the past goof-ups look brilliant.

    Obama has a nearly impossible challenge ahead and our only hope is that we help him fix the mess–all of us acting like Americans rather than idiots.

    January 7, 2009 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  11. Kurt C.

    I don't know who you're polling but no one I have ever met thinks Carter did a good job and most consider him the worst President we ever had.

    January 7, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  12. Baze

    Time will have to be awfully kind to Dubya

    January 7, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  13. J.P..

    That's because most of the nitwits who give high approval marks to Jimmy Carter are simply too young to have lived through his miserable years.

    January 7, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  14. lucy2

    I would think that after 8 years of W., pretty much anyone looks good in retrospect.
    But I also think that the humanitarian efforts of the former Presidents has helped improve their image in people's minds. They've all done some good work since leaving office, and hopefully will continue to do so.
    I only hope and pray that Bush Sr. wasn't serious about wanting to see Jeb take a run at the White House. I think we've had enough of the Bush family

    January 7, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  15. Riaz Amin

    There is such a stark difference between Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. Sr. knew when to stop and knew on the world stage, we need to work with others to get a buy in. The first war was won because we were able to take onto our side countries like Saudia, Egypt and even Syria. Soon after that he started the peace process between Israel and the Arabs, to pacifiy the muslim world about being fair. He even managed to get UN to do all the dirty work of disarming Saddam.

    Compare that to Jr. who has made even our closest allies our enemies.

    January 7, 2009 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  16. Humored in Texas

    Carter had a tough presidency but was easily the most decent man in the White House.

    Clinton enjoyed the most success even though he was an amoral louse.

    Either Bush was a failure, and it statred with Prescott Bush back in the 40's when he lost his companies under the "Trading With The Enemy Act" for money laundering with the Nazis – pure opportunistic family with no moral values or concern for the constituency that elected them.

    It is clear the Obama is a student of history and will learn from these mistakes and the good fortune of his predecessors!!!


    January 7, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  17. Jim

    Well, anyone would look like a princely statesman compared to George the Second...

    January 7, 2009 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  18. Not time yet

    Just wait a couple of weeks.

    January 7, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  19. Humored in Texas

    Personal to GWB2012:

    Nice to see you had blinders on for the last 8 years – you're just the kind of big tninker the GOP likes!!!

    Won't you be cleaning out the underside of your double-wide trailer soon?!

    January 7, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  20. We're NOT "your friends"!!!

    Time may have been kind to some former preseidents, but I don't think GWB is going to be one of them. I mean come on financial crisis, recession, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo, warrentless wire tapping, completely disregarding the constitution, shal I go on? I mean the man and his VP are war criminals, if this was another country the world would be asking for their heads on a platter. I've got the next 60 years to remember how much of a moron this man was!

    January 7, 2009 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  21. Debbie in Woodstock, IL

    I remember Carter as a great man who was a less than great president. He stuck by his principles, even when it was inconvenient & not politically expedient to do so. He micro-managed things, & this caused his presidency to suffer, but he was a good, honest man who called a spade a spade, & he was not pragmatic about human rights.

    January 7, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  22. OH SAY CAN WE SEE!!!

    Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, left, and Jimmy Carter can smile now about their performance in polls....Before you think about running for PREZ take a Good LOOK @the Snap shot above ...Oh my just like going to the ZOO!!!

    January 7, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  23. chuck


    January 7, 2009 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  24. TCM

    To everyone who thinks Jimmy Carter was a lousy president. I was alive and well during his administration and:

    We were not involved in any wars.

    There were no acts of terrorism on our soil.

    The stock market did not crash.

    People had jobs.

    The Big Three automakers weren't about to go under.

    President Carter forged a peace agreement between two bitter enemies, Israel and Egypt, which has held for 30 years.

    January 7, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  25. Gordon Shumway

    Even George W. Bush could not make Jimmy Carter look good. You just can't camouflage crap enough to look like an orchard.

    January 7, 2009 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
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