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. Kerri

    Nobody will ever be as bad as Obama , history will show how stupid people were to vote for this empty suit.
    I was never a supporter of Bush but in comparison to Obama , he wasn't that bad.

    April 25, 2013 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  2. John

    Over his eight years in office Bush accomplish more then any other modern President. He trashed the Bill of rights, the economy, got us into two unfunded wars one of which was illegel according to the UN, and brought the USA unforgivable hatred toward us by his opening of Gitmo prison,along with his treatment of prisoners,which bought the cries of war crimes on a President and Vice President, a real first and black mark on this country. Just these few things among so many more will in the far future cast Bush and his entire cabinet as one of the worst in our history. Yes his polls are up at the moment but don't hold your breath into thinking this shows he was good. Remember the real writen History of his misguided Presedency will be substanciated many years from now. He will not in any way be looked at in a good light. He royally messed up.

    April 25, 2013 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  3. Ethan

    Bush II was ultimately a failure in that it started with distrust and illegitimacy. He was effective in getting his programs passed and scaring anyone who publicly opposed him. He relied on a cabinet and agency leaders who had their own agendas to increase their personal power and to cut jobs, reduce regulatory inspections, and cozy relations with those companies they look like they are riding herd on. The "revolving door" is very real. Corporations can buy those that were really good at their jobs and then use that knowledge to thwart implementation of things like a safer workplace, the EPA regulations and inspections or OSHA compliance to name a few.

    April 25, 2013 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  4. maria

    Obamy (why this name ? seems to me you dislike Obama indeed! )you wrote "Bush is a great success yeah right ,did you forgot the war In Iraq? during Bush administration it was Attacks in the Embassys of US compound Saudi Arabia,Syrian Yemen twice, Calcutta ,Karachi,Islamabad,Tashken, Karachi twice, with the total of 60 deaths ,not counting the thousands that were killed in Iraq,so don't tell me is was a great succes get off of your high horse and smell the coffee it is not true, your facts are far from the true!

    April 25, 2013 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  5. heinz57pgh

    A total failure. He will be remebered in the same breadth as Hoover and Nixon. He presided over two uneccessary, unsuccessful and unfunded wars. ANd the cherry on top.....the greates financiala collapse of our generation. He managed to squander a surplus and left us a mess that will take a decade before we escape the continued economic hardship we are enduring. A complete loser who had no business being president. .

    April 25, 2013 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  6. maria

    Obamy : you repeated the same glossary we know you dislike Obama !

    April 25, 2013 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  7. Edmund

    Those who rate G. W. Bush's presidency as a success have very short memories. He was one of the most inept people to ever serve in the office.

    April 25, 2013 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  8. maria

    LearnUSA "tell that to the parenst and the families of the soldiers who die in Iraq war ,a war that Bush started without any reason tell them please how wonderful this man is that he brought this soldiers to get killed all in a war that exist only in his mind! tell the parents! and is not brainwashed by the media we all know THE FACTS!

    April 25, 2013 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  9. KS

    It's amazing how short some people's memory is. Bush was the worst President in history. Must be the Republicans who are still drinking the koolaid. He literally drove this country of the cliff and yet the man who has to cleanup the disaster gets blamed. It certainly explains why the right wing is so religious, reality is not their strong suit.

    April 25, 2013 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  10. Z

    George Bush will go down in History as one of our worst Presidents. He will be remembered for the needless Wars and lives lost that he and Cheney created out of thin air. He and his administration will be known as the ones who created a debt so large we may never pay it off. He and his administration created tax cuts and loopholes for those already so wealthy they don't know what to do with their money, so they hide it offshore so they don't have to pay taxes on it. He and his administration created Zero net jobs in his whole 8 years in office..can you imagine! 9/11 happened on his watch! He let those affected by Katrina rot! The housing bubble was created on his watch! He made enemies all over the World just by his choice of Words! I could go on and on about the Negatives of this man...Lets hope History will show this man, G.W. Bush was a disaster for this country. We should never forget what G.W.Bush and his Administration did to this country, NEVER!!!!! Least we repeat it....and God help us if something like G.W. Bush happens to this country again..

    April 25, 2013 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  11. Largerthandeath

    Bush took office and promptly caused the worst stock crash in history both in percentage and absolute numbers by 'sticking with the plan' to cut taxes mostly for the rich, while the nation went bankrupt, DOUBLING the national debt (Obama has to overspend by 8 TRILLION more dollars to match that sorry performance). He inherited peace and prosperity, lied us into war with INNOCENT Iraqis, murdered over 1 million of them (Says Johns Hopkins School of Medicine,College of Epidemiology, confirmed by WHO 3 times) and made America a pariah. THEN he fired the bank examiners, allowed the illegal foreclosures and drove the Middle class out of business. Pretty solid resume for an UTTER FAILURE on every front.

    April 25, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  12. Poo Dunk

    Bush was very successful at initiating a war that should never have been fought and he was very, very successful at squandering billions of taxpayer dollars. He was also extremely good at shirking his responsibilities throughout his presidency, as evidenced by the federal response to Katrina. All in all, not too bad for a Republican president. On a good note, (there is hope) Bush is no longer the president and he still articulates (or babbles – you choose) as though he may have a GED, but likely still struggling with getting through English.

    April 25, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  13. Mike

    We went from the worst President, who destroyed the American economy, to the greatest President who saved America from the brink of disaster and gave us Obamacare. Thank God.

    April 25, 2013 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  14. KellyF

    Bush is nothing but a criminal plain and simple. That is exactly what history will show. Anyone who doesnt know this fact is either in denial or ignorant.

    April 25, 2013 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  15. PapaBear

    Jr will always be the worst EVER!!! and you can take that to the bank.

    April 25, 2013 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  16. Palin Power

    Dubya is already a failure and a RINO. Sarah Palin will be our greatest President ever.

    April 25, 2013 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  17. Anonymous


    CNN...interesting that you choose to write about Bush and two negative pieces on Rand Paul when the Benghazi report is released that exposes Hillary Clinton as a liar. Interesting that you choose not to write about that. Also, how about writing about the security breakdown under Obama's watch that allowed these Boston terrorists to remain in this -country when we were warned by the Russians. Why not also write about welfare reform...and the fact that these clowns who terrorized Boston were on public assistance programs.

    First thought,if you do not like it go to FOX. Second, they DID write about the bombers being on welfare before but not this year. I am just curious how a sitting president has any knowledge, ever, of who gets a VISA? The FBI royally screwed up but I dont see the connection. Oh and I didnt vote for him, independent not liberal. And this piece on Bush didnt seem negative to me. He was aked many questions, some of those are tough questions, which I thought he answered reasonably well.

    April 25, 2013 03:09 am at 3:09 am |
  18. Dave in Arizona

    Just an example of why we, as a species, fail to learn from our mistakes: the more details we forget about a person or event, the more inclined we are to think of them in a less negative light.

    April 25, 2013 03:11 am at 3:11 am |
  19. jonathan fenton

    Yeah just too bad W is gonna need someone to read all those books in the library to him.

    April 25, 2013 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
  20. joe

    Anytime I start buying into this "history will judge" nonsense and brainwashing amnesia about Bush's presidency, all I have to do is think about his negative impact on science, women, minorities, and even grammar.

    April 25, 2013 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  21. snowyowl

    The only thing proven by this poll is that many Americans have very short-term memories.

    April 25, 2013 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  22. Don

    Prescott Bush tried to overthrow the FDR government in the "Business Plot" and was on the board of directors of the Union Banking Corp. whose assets were seized under the "Trading With the Enemy act" for hiding the wealth of the 3rd Reich and Adolf Hitler. George Senior was responsible for flooding Europe with heroin for weapons to Afghanistan using Osama Bin Ladin and using Manuel Noriega to import cocaine into the U.S. to finance weapons for the Contras when the Congress made it illegal to get involved in El Salvador. And G.W. ordered the 9/11 attacks. The evidence is OVERWHELMING. Let's not forget the authoring of The Patriot Act, trampling the Bill of Rights. And never forget over 300,000 dead CIVILIANS in the illegal invasion of Iraq. This is the most evil family in the history of the United States. It is only my opinion, but when the Bible talks about "The Man of Lawlessness", I firmly believe it is talking about these three men. A composite of the Bush family. The King James translation calls him "The Anti-Christ".

    April 25, 2013 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  23. Lee

    Whom took the poll?

    April 25, 2013 04:15 am at 4:15 am |
  24. Patty

    Bush Worst President ever !!!!!!!!

    April 25, 2013 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  25. J.V.Hodgson

    Hello everyone 2 wars costing trillions of dollars of debt and without any kind of win. The economic collapse of 2007/ 2008 pushing unemployment to record highs, and the lowest employment gain in 8 years of almost any presidency capped as aforementioned. He gave enormous tax reductions to the rich and did not pay for them also adding to national debt.
    Give me something he was right about or good at except religiously driven legislation.
    people posting about obama's record are " off topic" the blog asked for bushes presidency to be evaluated.

    April 25, 2013 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
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