CNN Poll: How will history remember George W. Bush?
April 24th, 2013
04:00 PM ET
10 years 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. Raj

    I wonder how the opinions change for an ex president, 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 with terror threats level, lied about Iraqi WMD, I can go on and on. The country was a thorough mess. How anyone, who thought he was a failed president then, change his/her mind. Unless they have forgotten, 11% unemployment rates, stock market crash, real estate market crash. Wall street out of control and corruption at its highest. The worst of Bush was created left and right division that may never heal. I have not seen worst leadership than his anywhere in the WORLD...

    April 24, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  2. Dean

    This is "BREAKING NEWS"? Of the hundreds of front page stories for Breaking News this is the one CNN runs? Just go to a site that has the ratings for news coverage and you will see why CNN is about as directional and accurate as a Korean General.

    April 24, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Its goes up because the left wing press and late night tv aren't bashing him everyday. simple

    April 24, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. Selmers

    It takes a complete failure like Obama to make Bush look better. LOL!

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

    Time heals!!! Of course it was a failure!!

    April 24, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. duane - st.pete FL

    Bush did fine.....Obama not so much

    April 24, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  7. John Vance

    It's too early for this assessment. He got the 9/11 crisis right out of the gate. That changed the country and it's priorities – along with the presidency.
    Decades will need to pass before the results can be judged.

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

    Josh, Very well said.

    April 24, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. SDStriker255

    This doesn't surprise me. There's a lot of hatred thrown Bush's way that is a product of media influence. I think it will be interesting in 20 years what historians and political analysts think when the partisanship has (hopefully) died down, and people evaluate his presidency not in a vacuum, but also in light of the fact that he had to deal with 9/11 and Katrina. I think we'll figure out that it could have been a lot worse in the aftermath of those two tragedies, and start to cut Bush a little slack.

    April 24, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  10. Greg C.

    Frankly, I felt safer under Bush, he was more transparent, and for Obama to ridicule and rail on him and his Presidency, I'm amazed how many of the policies, programs, and measures are still in place today. Furthermore, we have less Privacy now than under Bush, we are just now reaping the consequences of ObamaCare legislation that Nancy Pelosi told us we wouldn't know what's in it until it passed and we are still uncovering the hidden costs, about to see our premiums rocket up, and doctors leaving in droves which means less care choices, longer distances to drive to a "preferred" practitioner, etc. Food prices, gas, heating oil, etc. are all increasing and our borders are still vulnerable.

    Furthermore, Bush, despite President Obama's repeated jabs at his predecessor, even now, has remained respectful to the person in office and staying out of the limelight, something this administration should learn from; most definitely not Carter.

    April 24, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  11. Bob

    So many unbiased opinions in these comments....

    April 24, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  12. Sn0wjob

    W. Bush was a NIGHTMARE for this country, and we still haven't fully waken up. Whether the Neo-Con nutjobs realize it or not, Obama is STILL digging us out of the incredible disaster that W. left for us. The fact that there's ANY significant portion of the US that thinks W. was even "ok" just goes to show how messed up this country truly is.

    April 24, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  13. LucyRicardo

    So how do you like me now, huh? After four plus years of Obama, he's starting to look pretty good to those who didn't recognize it before. Do you think the North Koreans would be pulling these recent stunts, loading missiles and threatening the U.S. with nuclear attacks if Bush were President? Highly unlikely. They're not that dumb.

    April 24, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  14. Harry

    By and far the worst president this nation has ever had to endure.

    April 24, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. rob

    Not in my book it doesn't

    April 24, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  16. doug mcduff

    All I know is that 90+ % of what both Bushes did were supported by AND voted in BY the bulk of Democrats. Or at last that what facts STATE. So, looking at the current president who is by far the most polarized, do it on my own prez ever and one can see why well over half the nation doesn't trust Bummer whatsover!!!

    April 24, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  17. SuZieCoyote

    Right.....let's do a poll right after a terrorist attack and see how he does.....

    April 24, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  18. Len

    illuminated genius,

    You are 100% correct. It is strange how the right wing folks forget what happened during Bush/Cheney administration.
    Well Done!

    April 24, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. Dave

    His move up in the polls is a dead cat bounce.

    April 24, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  20. Sam

    Bush's current approval rating is 49.4 and Obama's is 49. When the American people discover what Obama has done to them, Jimmy Carter will be higher than Obama. 5 years of a stagnant economy, record number of people on food stamps, a declining middle class, a skyrocketing deficit and a world that hates the US should be a clue that Obama is not qualified for the job. When the interest payments on our debt become higher than our military budget and we begin to feel the effects of Obama Care, then the public will know they've been had by a fast talking politician.

    April 24, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  21. seriously?

    We won't be fooled again. ha

    April 24, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  22. Mark B.

    @ illuminated genius: You have sucked up every single lie you have been fed. I hope you are old, because if you are our future, we are in deep doo-doo. You have not managed to get one of your points correct. You would think you might have lucked out with one. way to try to revise history.

    April 24, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  23. keith willis

    for all the people commenting on this article, remember one thing, if you ever pulled a lever, punched a hole, or made a mark for Sarah Palin for anything you have lost the right to participate in any political commentary. you know who you are.

    April 24, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  24. rwroten

    As a former conservative who voted twice for George W and now an full supporter of Obama, President Bush was and still is an honorable man worthy of respect for the position and responsibility as President of the most powerful nation on earth. He took his mandate to protect Americans and the world seriously even though there are opposing views of political thought. The errors and misinformed data fed into the administrations decisions to take action are not to fault his Presidency entirely. America has done wrong things in the past for information that at the time seemed to,point to action; the Spanish American war, the Marshall plan intervention on Central American affairs, Vietnam, etc. If anyone thinks they could have done better than they are saying they are brilliant and would have had a billiant group of advisors to make the right decisions. The awesome responsibilitiies of the president of the United States should make the ordinary person cringe. George Bush did what he did and he made a positive contribution to this country. History will make him more favorable than people of today give him. I pray for Obama as I prayed for Bush and more Americans should do the same.

    April 24, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  25. Great man

    Bush will be seen, as a great leader during a trying time. In recent history we haven't had such a leader- in the face of adversity. stand so solid and firm, while retaining an aire of prestige and wisedom. Mark my words.

    April 24, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
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