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. TL Shannon

    Bush's approval rating has been steadily climbing (49% last) as the comparison to Obama continues.

    April 24, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  2. benny

    I live in new orleans anda will always remember how he came here and said that fema was doing "one heck of a good job" right after katrina while bodies were floating on the streets and people did not have food or water. WORST PRESIDENT EVER

    April 24, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  3. John

    If Bush is a failure, then Obama is a dropout.

    April 24, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  4. Woman In California

    IF you need further proof of just how much people remember George W. Bush, just remember the reelection of President B. Obama. Not everyone who voted for the president like him or approve of the job he's doing, some (not me) even thought Willard might have been better but FEAR of another republican getting into office and finishing us off, they voted for the safe choice (Obama) and decided they're not ready to make that [r] mistake again for a long time. And for that, I say thank you.

    April 24, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  5. Owl Creek Observer

    All it took was four years of Obama's amateurish administration for the grownups in the room to recognize that W wasn't so bad after all. He was, and is, a good man who was tested early in his presidency with the 9-11 Muslim attacks. He kept us safe from further attacks for eight years. Whether his removal of Saddam Hussein was or was not a good move is moot at this point.

    April 24, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  6. Grizgolfe

    A library in his honor. Really ? First, check and see if he can spell "library" and then the real test; can he find his way. He was a disaster as a president

    April 24, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  7. johnjon33

    it depends on who you ask?.................... duh.

    April 24, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. IslandAtheist

    It must be those dog paintings.

    April 24, 2013 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  9. rbsg

    This can be explained by one axiom: Nostalgia is a seductive liar.

    April 24, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  10. Sandi

    With Obama, America has a chance at becoming a country I can finally feel proud of while not feeling that sickeningly superior to the rest of the world feeling. Yay!

    April 24, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  11. Eric

    I always told people that in the short term he was the worst president ever but long term he will far well into the middle of the pack. Obama on the other hand had much higher expectations and has failed to meet them at every turn. Bush was not really elected as a walk on water jesus man and was always 10 times as humble as Obama.

    April 24, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  12. sly

    Moronic? Fatalistic? Incompententistic? Crooked? More CIA coke came to America under GW Senior. He was Osama Bin Laden's fathers best friend in Saudi Arabia. Anyone remember Noriega, or Bush bombing Panama City. Wow, you think today is crazy, think back before Bush.

    April 24, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  13. akcduba

    How anyone could look back and think that Bush was successful is beyond me! What kind of warped reality does someone live in to see his 8 years as anything but a disaster for the country? The only real question yet to be answered is if he was the worst president in history or only in the top 5.

    April 24, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  14. beevee

    In my opinion GW will be remembered as a president who played into the hands of the VP Cheney in spite of being a good man and became the CIC of a war that should not have been.

    April 24, 2013 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  15. hrdwrknjoe

    Bush is a murderer/war criminal PERIOD.

    April 24, 2013 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Obama is a terrible president and has been since day#1 Our country is in deep trouble under his watch. I'm so sorry that people were so blind to elect this man.

    April 24, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  17. Jon

    A telephone-based survey. And just over 70% of respondents were contacted via their land line. Yeah, like this is an impartial poll.

    April 24, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  18. Gman

    Terrorist do get to go down in history.

    April 24, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  19. Airbornevet

    His approval will change because time heals all wounds and we will forget how he was one of the worst in recent American history. If people disagree with that, then why is he shunned by his own party i.e. the not invited to the RNC and all their CPACs or anything else. It's been over four years and he's been hidden.....This is just a simple fact that will defeat any argument that he was a good president.

    I thought he was a failure in 2000 when I saw him running smear campaigns against John McCain with straight out lies. If someone was to do that against such a heroic war hero, you know they have a corrupt agenda and their true moral bearing is off compass. Obama did not. McCain did not want to in 2008, but was forced to by his party and supporters.

    Bush was bought and paid for. That is why he could not talk for himself, would always fumble his words and look so unnatural. He would forget what he was suppose to say or how to act. And yeah, everyone uses teleprompters, and almost no one recent has had as many mishaps or looked as uncomfortable speaking as he, except Nixon.

    April 24, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  20. J. Alexander

    When you order the killing of another human justified or not you are guilty of murder too crimes against humanity I was a Vietnam vet, IF YOU ORDER SOMEONE TO WAR you should spend at least one week on the battle field. Through history the rich has made money off war. Wars can end in one day tell the other side quit or we will drop a bomb so large the war will end

    April 24, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  21. gladitsnight

    Enough with the pictures of Bush! First there was the article about boxing being to blame for terrorism, and now this war criminal's face is splashed all over the screen.

    April 24, 2013 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  22. Jermaine

    The way he handled 9/11 I think was cool. But the war in Iraq was unnecessary... not to mention the recession started at the end of his term (which republicans tend to conveniently forget.) So say what you want the proof is in the pudding. His term was mixed at best. Reagan, Bush (I), Clinton, and Obama (yes him too) were (are) all better considering. Bush has caused a lot of deaths, debt, and division.

    April 24, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  23. bubba's cousin

    some folks are born stupid and they just go downhill from there...they will continue to believe what is set in front of them.

    April 24, 2013 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  24. me234

    The fact that most of the GOP feels that Bush's 2 terms were success, only shows that the GOP is doomed.

    April 24, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  25. Strangways

    it's unbelievable that Bush gets any kind of favorable rating. America truly does have a short memory. His presidency was a dismal failure – he surrounded himself with people whose only purpose was to enrich corporations, increase corporate influence in Washington and minimize consumer and environmental protection. The federal government and military ballooned under him, we dumped trillions on Iraq – now the Republicans want to make deep cuts and we're furloughing Air Traffic Controllers. The human sausage factory that is Baghdad used to be one of the safest cities in the world. His creepy, highly partisan appointments to the Supreme Court are gifting us with awful decisions like Citizen's United. But no, he was great!

    April 24, 2013 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
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