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. dirtymuslims

    after seeing how bad obama is, it's not surprising the views on bush improve.

    April 24, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  2. Capone

    All of this just proves that the intellectual level of the people in this nation continues to deteriorate as time goes on.

    1) He ignored several warnings that a specific terrorist organization was determined to attack inside the U.S. a month before that very same group carried out the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.

    2) He led us into a full scale war in Afghanistan to capture/kill one man. Not only did he not achieve that objective, but that war continues over 10 years later.

    3) He led us into a full scale war in Iraq based on false information. Over 4,000 American soldiers have been killed, over 10,000 have been maimed, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed. All for nothing.

    4) He sat by and watched the worst natural disaster in American history destroy New Orleans, Louisiana. It took a week after the storm hit before he finally dispatched federal aid.

    5) He took one of the largest budget surpluses in history and transformed it into one of the largest budget deficits in history by enacting two rounds of deep tax cuts, waging two wars, and enacting a federal welfare programs for pharmaceutical companies without paying for any of it.

    6) Finally, he oversaw the 2nd worst economic collapse in American history.

    When George W. Bush left office, this country was involved in 2 full scale wars, had one of the largest budget deficits in American history, and was facing the 2nd worst economy in American history. Plus, the national debt more than doubled ($5.6 trillion in 2000 to over $10 trillion in 2008).

    Anyone who says that is a successful Presidency is beyond idiotic. There is just no nice way of saying that.

    April 24, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  3. COOL

    Who cares?? Presidents get their judgment day when they are in the White House. That's when it matters the most so why is this even a story? Are we going to say "OMG spike in Lincoln approval ratings after movie release"?? What's done is done. At the end of the day what does it matter if someone says oh he was good and someone else says he is the worst ever?

    April 24, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  4. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    I say failure !!!

    April 24, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  5. dfryer36

    The big take away here is that people who have actually been through periods of hardship view Bush as a success while those who have been raised in periods of plenty and expect to have everything handed to them view him as a failure.

    April 24, 2013 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  6. WeirdMN

    Obama is also such a horrendous President that Bush starts to look better in comparison. But the sad truth is that they are almost certainly the worst Presidents the US has ever had, which is bad enough – but to have to deal with them back to back is a national tragedy Unfortunately, a self inflicted one, at that.

    April 24, 2013 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  7. Peter

    Only natural that his points would pick up a bit when you start off as low as he did.

    Even Richard Nixon's came up a bit.

    Nevertheless, a highly flawed presidency headed by a man who was not an articulate individual and hardly a statesman.

    April 24, 2013 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  8. Peter

    ef obamy wrote: "Bush is a great success, Obamy is a failure already, Heck, his failure started at the beginning of his inaugaration speech"

    I thought that after posting this message several times, you would have figured out how to spell "inauguration".

    April 24, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  9. presisamonkey

    can we have bush back now?

    April 24, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |

    Bush was definitely successful....

    That's if you consider the greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top as success.

    April 24, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  11. Science!

    It was a success.... at bankrupting America.

    April 24, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  12. KTM

    Some perspective: Views on Jimmy Carter have improved over the years as well. Come to think of it, time has also dulled the memories of my last root canal.

    April 24, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  13. rightospeak

    Bush is a war criminal and under Nuremberg rules would be shot.

    April 24, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  14. lunchtime

    As an human being he was ok. As the Prez he was an idiot. He was easily swayed by the Intel... It cost a lot of $ to kill though just a few benifit. Smarten up southerners. Ya, WoMD.

    April 24, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  15. Name 777

    The family will never be forgiven

    April 24, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  16. docshock

    Wow. 80% of republicans think BUSH was a success. And Bobby Jindal wants them to stop being the party of stupid? lol.

    April 24, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |

    "Dubya was and his legacy remains a huge failure.No other president,maybe Herbert Hoover,when he left office had left behind such a complete disaster that George"Dubya"Bush did.He inherited 8 years of Clinton administration work and success.By the time he left he had almost destroyed the economy,left us with 2 wars,and on the verge of a great depression.He may be a good family man and all that but as Commander in Chief he was an absolute nightmare.

    April 24, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  18. Romney is Still NOT My Hero

    George Warmonger Bush – Disgrace to America. Mission Accomplished!

    April 24, 2013 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  19. bill tomey

    BUSH was personably,responsible for killing 3000+ AMERICANS ON 911HE WAS WARNED on august 15th by CONDELEESA RICE by way of a memo from BIN LADEN, STATING THAT there would be attacks against the USA,using acft within 2 weeks . but bush in his usual drunken stupor,didn't pay attentionand the twin towers went to te ground killing 3000 plus along with couple hundred more in SHANKSVILLE, PENNA while he was drinking away in TX OR FLA ,with brother jeb clampett bush– he should be remembered as a mass killer of AMERICAN citizens,that should be his legacy-idiot

    April 24, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  20. Ted

    Seriously, Bush took a thriving econmy and ruined it. Obama took a ruined economy and fixed a few things. I'm independant so I see things thru the truth!! I can tell from blogs who is Rep and who is Dem.

    April 24, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  21. Cindy

    Bush was not perfect, as no one is, but he stuck to his beliefs and morals and did not flip flop as society changed.

    April 24, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  22. JoePub

    Hey Peter Gerdeman,

    WMDs were found. DOD has the info. Wah Wah WAH!! 🙂

    April 24, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  23. voteemallout

    he'll never be more than a loser to me; lied to me and the rest of america to our faces. responsible for the prosecution of two wars, 2 tax cuts and a pharmacuetical glive away, lessened restraints on financial services, oversaw the invasion of another country that had not attacked us – for the first time in our history – bankrupted the country, outed a cia operative, and generally wasted away 8 years and trillions of dollars belonging to us. katrina, iraq reconstruction, was awol his last year in service, his inheritied surplus he squandered, haliburton/cheny, condi (never read that feb memo from nsa), rummy, the gop and the pentagon guy. plus much more. whatever another idiot was in the wh.

    April 24, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  24. Gessoart

    Hopefully America will never hire a C student as it's chief CEO again. It is unwise to hire a person of average intelligence to do a critical job – whether a surgery, a legal brief, or running a nation. Right now he enjoyes doing amateur oil paintings of dogs. What he has chosen is a safe and fulfilling post-career for himself. I wish him the best. But his legacy is etched in stone – that facts can never be erased.

    April 24, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. DemFromSC

    This just proves that the average American voter has a very short memory. He will go down in history as one of the two or three worst Presidents ever. He started a totally unnecessary war, and almost sent us into a second Depression.

    April 24, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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