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. chet

    Bush both destroyed our economy at home and at the same time destroyed our reputation as the leader of the free world.
    For him I guess this is a job well done. We will never forgive or forget the damage done by G.W. Bush. He will always be known as our worst President and a total failure.

    April 24, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  2. Tony

    Time won't tell the truth about King Bush II. Memories just fade and a generation moves on. Those who talk about his "success" just have selective memory. Bahhhh Bahhhh stupid sheep >:-(

    April 24, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  3. iconoclast1

    Wow. Simply amazing. 80% of Republicans think Bush' presidency was a success? It boggles the mind. Let's see what the experts think. According to the Siena College 2010 survey of more than 200 presidential scholars, Bush ranked 39th, with only 4 presidents ranked lower. He ranked 3 spots below Herbert Hoover. Bush was ranked next to last in intelligence. No surprise there.

    April 25, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  4. TLORop

    Name one good thing Bush did? Cant think of one either?

    April 25, 2013 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  5. John john the pipers son 1

    Bush is a fool plain and simple, he has added nothing positive to the conversation only the same worn out ideology of the reptiles who have preceded him. Killing others will only bring about more killing, much like the Boston bombers who lay claim to same ideology of people like #43. Nice cycle of destruction George.

    April 25, 2013 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  6. Tom Vandecamp

    @Peter Gerdeman You don't like him only because we failed to really succeed in the war, but when the war just began, i bet you wholeheartedly supported it just like most democrats did.

    April 25, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  7. anna mae pearl

    Anyone who wants to judge Bush on the Iraq war needs to read Tales of the Tyrant in the Atlantic Monthly published just a few months before 9-11. The article was by the incomparable Mark Bowden. There were weapons of mass destruction–Hussein's two sons who would have been far more of a catastrophe than their father. The press was dishonorable in their treatment of Bush...shame on them.

    April 25, 2013 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  8. Meatloaf

    I love Bush!

    April 25, 2013 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  9. Thomas

    The GW Bush History has already been written ,

    Those without memory , have no Vision !

    April 25, 2013 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  10. Anonymous

    1. Destroyed our economy. 2 Lied about WMD to go to war. 3. Responsible for the deaths of thousands 4. Profited personally from the war. 5 Abuse of power. 6. The worst president of modern times. 7. Dropped the ball and allowed terrorists to attack the USA on 9-11. 8. Tried to lease the ports to the Arabs. 9 A total idiot. 10. The only president that was an embarrassment to his own party, therefore, not invited to any of the republican conventions...not even mentioned once.

    April 25, 2013 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  11. Mike Buck

    Master of War feeding his cronies in the war industry. His library should have one book; the children's book he was reading on 9-11 when he sat there like a bump on a pickle for nearly ten minutes after getting the news of the attack.
    He did set a record for presidential vacation time!

    April 25, 2013 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  12. yogi

    Bush should be in the Hague as a war criminal, along with Cheney and Rumsfeld. Any percentage of approval is in direct proportion with the the level of dumbness in this country. The W administration was a disaster both economically and humanitarian.

    April 25, 2013 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  13. Shane

    Bottom line: given the attacks of 9/11, George W. Bush made impeccable decisions at every turn!! I mean, seriously . . . what would you have done??? It's easy to sit back and criticize. But in my opinion, he made the best possible decisions, every single time! In my opinion, his presidency is a great success!!! Obama's presidency isn't even worth mentioning in the history books, except for the horrible scourge of Obamacare he has inflicted upon the nation!!

    April 25, 2013 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  14. Bette Mallow

    He was a wonderful President, unfortunately I think he will be remembered as the President who got blamed by Obama for everything including the weather....Love George and Laura and family.

    April 25, 2013 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  15. Gregory

    9/11 happened on his watch. Iraq happened on his watch. Plamegate happened on his watch. Epic collapse of our economy happened on his watch. Katrina happened on his watch.

    April 25, 2013 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  16. cwcw

    senility is setting in on 42% of America.

    April 25, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  17. sV1

    Look, when asked or invited to judge another person, and even more difficult to accurately judge any leader, i.e., Congressman, Senator, CIA, NSA, FBI, Sec.DEF, Sec.State, V.Pres., Pres., is actually impossible. I say that because we, you and I, We the People, tax paying Citizens of the USA ...NEVER HAVE ALL OF THE FACTS! NEVER!

    We look back now at former Pres.Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, ... until today and we don't have all of the facts about these former Pres. from fifty years ago, much less the current Pres. Obama.

    Add in Pres. Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr., and even more is unknown about their actual hands on work that never made the Press, the News, Magazines and when we read books written about Presidents, we have to wonder how many actually had (have) ALL OF THE FACTS. The key words must be based on having"ALL OF THE FACTS." When we judge others without having all of the facts, our position is based on what we CHOOSE or want to believe are THE FACTS and in so doing we are GUESSING at making our judgement according to what we want or need to believe.

    In a court of law, judgement must be based on "reasonable doubt." That way we as a legal culture can produce judgement as to whether a charged person committed an illegal act or did not, based on reasonable doubt.

    So, how do we as generic US Citizens accurately judge the action or inaction of a Pres. when we don't know what HE DID (does) KNOW? We really can't. Because we don't know, and may never know all of the facts that were presented to him for his consideration. Secrets remain secrets for a long time. The recent books and films on A.Lincoln delivered so much new information about the man, his wife, his cabinet, his political allies and enemies, his Union Generals, the trusted SCOUTS with information HE received to help him decide the best and sometimes the only way each individual Civil War battles were fought, WON and LOST!... is incredible to say the least.

    Now imagine how much more of his activities were never disclosed, may never be disclosed and the same goes for every V.Pres., Chief of Staff, etc., etc., So how can we actually make an accurate judgement based on all of the facts known, when we never get ALL the facts...ever.

    That said, we must make our own judgements about legal and political issues based on what we know. That way, when we vote, we vote for the candidates we are convinced are the best person for the job at the time. Actually, I would like for us to have more of the facts and base our individual votes for whom we decide is the most popular candidate for Pres., instead of the electoral college being sequestered to make that call.

    Of course that might be the fastest way to start another civil war too. We the People getting OUR OWN WAY and end up offending one another so much, because of all of our innate differences like North, South, Central, East and West, democrat, republican, rich, poor, upper class, middle class, lower class, pro life, pro death, pro guns, pro no-guns, pro armed forces, anti armed forces ... the list goes on, and on and on.

    The point is that, because of our differences and that we never have all of the facts, how can we really pass judgement on an elected President of the US, the highest elected official representative for us, We the People, toward the rest of the world and back to us. The news that we get about daily world events are studied and cleared through the NSA, National and Homeland Secirity, FBI, CIA ... before anyone in office says a word ... OR ELSE. We can't even get accurate information about the Bengazi calamity that occurred over six months ago when four Americans were killed, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three professional soldiers, also Americans and former US Armed Forces. If we can't get accurate informaion about how this calamity happened and WHOM is responsible, what other information can we expect to get, not get from our elected officials?

    PS Bush was caught on camera behaving like a teenaged goofball, so was Clinton "LOL", Carter, Ford, "Nixon" and the Kennedy's too. At least Reagan had a form of dignity.


    April 25, 2013 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  18. CommonSenseSam

    GW Bush was and always will be a national disgrace and an incredible failure as a president. Everything else is just conservative spin and lies. Maybe they can give him some BS awards upon the opening of his joke of a library. "Heck of a job" Bushie... Fading into worthless obscurity as he is attempting to do now is too kind of a fate for him.

    April 25, 2013 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  19. rogue351

    The man and his vice president ran the biggest scam on America that has EVER been run. Personal vendetta to start a war in a country we had no business being in on the fake premise of WMD's. The near total collapse of the American Finical system. Every middle class person that owned a home or had a 401K lost money that was then distributed to wall street, thanks to the Bush bank deregulation. Cheney and Halliburton, another ethics violation of a grand order swept under the rug while friends walked away with millions in government contracts paid for by our tax dollars. The ONLY people making money was big business and most handed over jobs to China, THANKS MITT !! The Florida voting scandal. It just so happens a Bush was in office there, what a coincidence. Also a coincident that Bush die not win by popular vote. How on earth can any think any better of this president. The current president is just now, 5 years laster getting the countries head above water but with massive debit that will take generations to pay off. Bush also banked on big oil instead of cleaner energy solutions once again putting money in the hands of over seas companies. Bush voted against America every chance he had and it paid for him and his buddies. What history should report is how this man and Cheney managed to escape a criminal tribunal. If you think this look good compared to Obama you are lucky Obama care passed because you need some electric shock and a new pair of glasses. Bush was so bad that history just need to record one word next to his name – Failure. Cheney – War monger , Jeb Bush – Crook, Donald Rumsfeld – clueless and Rice – The mouth peace of lies. That about sums all of them up. Lets hope people are not so stupid in the future to elect a president that when told the United States was under attach just sat they, doing nothing. Not one thing, he froze. That is shameful and I hope we NEVER have to witness that cowardliness in any future presidents. That is what history should report. But as we can see by this poll the American people forgive and forget unless it comes to gay marriage or immigration, separation of church and state or guns. Pathetic !!!

    April 25, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  20. rehabmax

    I'm mad. i didn't get to vote in this. Successful presidency, not in a million years. Biggest failure of all. I would like to know who CNN got to vote. I doubt it was a cross section of people. My opinion has never wavered. Awful, terrible to put it mildly.

    April 25, 2013 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  21. Kenneth

    Our nation is very forgiving of alcoholic, jesus-freak, coke heads.

    April 25, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  22. heinz57pgh

    All Bush supporters are delusional. History will not be kind to the Bush presidency. Please be honest. This man and his adminisatration was responsible for two unecessary, unsuccesful and unfunded wars. And when considering he led our country through the greatest financial collapse in a generation, there is no other way to seee this man as monumental loser who had no business being President in the first place. .

    April 25, 2013 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  23. retief1954

    Really?!?!? Wow... hard to believe his approval numbers would EVER improve. Just goes to show ya... human beings have short memories, especially those anxious to refute majority opinion that their own positive view of Bush is, well, a solidly minority opinion of the guy. Weird how he gets more faves now, since time certainly hasn't changed any of the decisions he made, policies he pursued, servicemen and women he got killed in a totally avoidable war, or cringe-worthy embarrassing things he did ("Mission Accomplished!" And all dressed up like some service-worthy airman.) But I'm sure he did the best he was capable of.

    April 25, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  24. maria

    I cannot belive Obama is coming to Bush library inauguration,I didn't saw him in Obma presidential Inaguration other presidents were there but that we miised him but for protocol he should be there not matter what ,even his father and mother sedn Congratulations to him but still nothing from Bush ,not class at all .

    April 25, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  25. retief1954

    PS: It's so funny to watch and read how Repubs lionize ex-Repub presidents like Reagan and Bush II, desperately wanting everyone to agree on what GREAT MEN they were, and how thoroughly unfit and nasty any and all Dem presidents were (and are). That's the truth, I guess, in Republican World. Naturally, a majority of Americans see the reality – that Reagan was little more than a conservative ideologue and poised actor (however, credit given for his shaping of events on the international stage), and Bush II's character flaws and limits as a person, much less as POTUS, were painfully and embarrassingly apparent to anyone watching, and America has paid and still pays a steep price for the time he was given the job.

    April 25, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
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