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. strangerq

    Eight in ten Republicans now say that Bush's eight years in office were a success.

    ^ In what way?

    Pure partisan horse-feces answer, unless you can answer the question -> In what way?

    April 24, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  2. Gonzo

    Well, I'm an independent, and Bush was a failure, and we haven't learned anything yet, because Obama is every bit as much of a failure!! Two names: Clinton and Reagan. They had their definite flaws, but they GOT THINGS DONE! They knew how to govern. We've gone from a cowboy who can't talk to a talker who does nothing but, well, talk! The next three years will be long ones.

    April 24, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  3. The Kroods

    I don't think a 42 percent approval rating is anything to brag too loudly about.

    April 24, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  4. Fryfishbatter

    NOBODY believes Bush was a good leader or a president or believes that wtc building 7 fell on its own – all four corners falling at the exact same time without ever being hit by anything.

    April 24, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  5. Larry L

    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.
    Over 8 million jobs were lost BEFORE President Obama took office. Bush issued the first bailout package – think he did that because things were in good shape? A deep recession was underway BEFORE President Obama took office. Every effort to create jobs was obstructed by Republicans. Don't let racism cloud your judgement.

    April 24, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  6. strangerq

    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.

    The idea that GOP'ers would claim W was a success just proves people will tell partisan lies in polls.

    GOP never mentions Bush. Wouldn't let him near the convention. He's persona non grata.

    But you're trying to convince us they believe he was a success? Hahahaha. Go tell another one.

    April 24, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  7. sly

    ho ho ho ... gotta love that 55% disapproval rate, a new all time low. this was a bozo of Reagan-esque quality.

    April 24, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  8. CaliforniaAc

    1.Bush squandered a balanced-budget surplus.
    2.He had the first vice president calling all the shots.
    3.He lied his way into the Iraq war.
    4.He squeezed the middle class and allowed the 1% to get fatter while setting the stage for our current situation.
    5.He didn't have a brain, but had people around him to use theirs and just do as they said. I could do more, but...

    April 24, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  9. sqeptiq

    Asking the American public such a question is a fool's errand. Half of them don't believe in evolution and do believe that WMD were found in Iraq.

    April 24, 2013 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  10. Hootie The Blowfish

    People will NOT be looking at him so favorably when Obama cites him with War Crimes, right before he leaves Office.

    April 24, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  11. lobo joe

    George W. Bush is to President Obama as a cheeseburger is to prime rib; how quickly we forget.

    April 24, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  12. Steve

    Steve Allard,

    Yes, the economy WAS trashed in Bush's 2nd term, but it was by the DEMOCRATS that were voted in to control both houses of Congress, NOT by Bush! In Dec. of 2006, our deficit was $436 BILLION. The Dems took control of Congress in Jan. 2007, & just exactly WHO sets the budget? Yep, Congress. We were 8 TRILLON in debt by the end of president Bush's retirement, & it has doubled in Obama's first 5 years. WHO failed who?

    April 24, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  13. Monica K

    Bush is an absolute failure. He was never heir apparent, Jeb was, but he has hurt the Bush name forever. His neo con buds pushed him to war so all those deaths and our terrible debt are his fault alone!! You can't go to war, cut taxes and pray that "trickle down" builds the economy like magic and not plummet this country. Besides the wars , the economy tanking due to lack of regulation, the lives changed forever due to lost jobs and foreclosure, he stole HOPE and the American Dream from people. His Father was a great President....W was an ass until 40 and not much more after that. Spoiled little rich boy ruined this country. How can he live with himself?

    April 24, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    GWB is the worst so-called U.S. president and the worst war criminal since Adolph Hitler.

    April 24, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  15. gusaustin

    The days after 9/11, I thanked God that Al Gore wasn't the pres. Often now as I see things on the news, I wish he was still there. I think he angered so many people that wanted AL Gore to win, that they've since dedicated their lives to forever trying to trash his name. You repeat something so much that people will believe it, hopefully we'll see that effort fail.

    April 24, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  16. Shawn

    I am sure it's true. Americans like Presidents like Bush and Obama that spend spend spend. Republicans and Democrats ruining America one election at a time

    April 24, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  17. jorge

    @steve allard – The Democrats under Clinton lit the fuse (CRA) that started the big mess. Many people were responsible for the mess besides bankers. What about people getting loans for homes they could never afford. Looks like someone forgot to teach people about personal responsibility when they were growing up. At least Bush kept us safe for 7 of his 8 years in office. 911 was not his fault. There were 6 or 7 attacks under the Clinton administration. Clinton did not do much after each attack. 911 was the culmination of all these attacks.

    April 24, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  18. James Klimaski

    Let's see, we can start off by pointing out that the attack on the World Trade Center occurred on Bush's watch – and he wasn't watching the terrorists moving freely around the United States, even though he was warned about them less than a month before the attack. Next, instead of hunting down those responsible, his Administration decided to go to war against Saddam Hussein, who had no involvement with those terrorists. Bush even said the Osama Bin Laden was irrelevant. The cost of that war put our country into an economic tailspin, which the present Administration is struggling to recover from. We can look at how the Bush Administration has changed the tax structure of this country so that the only segment of the population that has done better over this past decade are those earning over $500,000 a year. Everyone else has lost ground. The recent bipartisan commission examining our handling of prisoners reported that the Bush Administration tortured those prisoners by the thousands sullying our country's image around the world. Ask yourself if you were better off after the Bush Presidency then after the Clinton Presidency. Finally, what good works has Bush done since leaving office? The best you can say is that he is keeping out of further trouble by sticking to his painting.

    April 24, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  19. Woman In California

    Legacy? W's legacy will be remembered for one thing only STUPIDITY. Stupidity of the American people to elect this poor excuse of a man not once but twice and still we're trying to dictate to other countries? Please.

    April 24, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  20. here and back again

    Let's look at the numbers shall we? Where did the "shift" come from...who thought so poorly of him and then changed their minds? The Republicans. Not the Democrats. Not the Independents. The Republicans.

    April 24, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  21. observer99

    On August 6, prior to 9/11 Bush was warned by CIA that Bin Laden was determined to strike US!!! Anyone with a few brain cells would have alerted law enforcement, airports and the public. NOT sub- moron Bush – he stayed on vacation in Crawford!

    His feckless national " security" advisor Candy Rice had same warning July 10, 2001 she also took NO action! How can anyone think anything that BUSH was FAILED president – tens of thousands killed with two unnecessary wars that we are still paying for! IF ONLY the moron BUSH had taken some action. All who enabled the moron Bush have a Niagara Falls of blood flowing from their hands!I . I'm a lifelong Republican but I would never vote for a moron for president of our nation!

    April 24, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  22. bomarmonk

    The jury is still out on this; if intervention in the Middle East, with Iraq and Afghanistan, are ultimately looked at as a successful strategy (Afghan girls go to school without becoming targets, civil government takes sway over Islamic radicalism, dictatorships, and mob rule, etc.), history should judge this part of Bush's legacy in a positive light.

    Yet, with our current strategy, more governments in the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt) have become more radicalized. While this is due in part to Obama's hands-off approach to revolutions in these places, some of this will be attributed to Bush's presidency that put pressure on the region in the first place.

    Also, the financial crisis and economic decline is certainly attributable to a government that was asleep at the wheel under Clinton and Bush (and will no doubt continue to be unresolved under the pie-in-the-sky, "let's have our cake and eat it too" policies of the current administration).

    I'd say, hold on. We are still in for a stormy ride, America. And Bush and Obama haven't really provided leadership that would steer our country around the rocky shoals.

    April 24, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  23. Michael Bylebyl

    If W's numbers have gone up, it's only because millions of Americans have died since he was in office and the living have been taking stupid pills. I will grant that he had his cheer leader moment with the fire fighters after being asleep at the wheel when 9/11 happened, but then what did he do ??? He screwed up getting Bin Laden at Torah Borah & declared war on a country which had nothing to do with 9/11, fell asleep during Katrina & presided over the worst economic meltdown since 1929 so that the stock market dropped from 12,000 to 6,400. Helluva job, shame on the great decider, shame on us for electing the worst president in US history !!!

    April 24, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  24. jimmorrisonmania

    Well, when Bush came into office in 2000 the country was doing well, there were plenty of jobs and a surplus of money in the Government coffers. During his Presidency he managed to turn the surpluses into deficits, ship millions of American jobs out of America with his “Free Trade” deals not to mention lying in order to go to war so he could execute his personal vendetta against Sodom Hussein and make his buddies at Halliburton rich. Then on his way out the door he let the banks rob the American taxpayer blind..This sounds like failure to me. He either was one of the stupidest Presidents we have had or one of the most corrupt, I still can’t figure out which.

    April 24, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  25. dean

    Thanks George, for keeping us safe. with obama I have to protect myself...

    April 24, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
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