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. Milo Hofmeir

    The Cheney / Bush administration (note the order) was not just not just a failure, but it was a total disaster. George Bush's incompentency and ignorance, along with his Axis of Evil advisory team, was 100% responsible for rendering the United States of America a second rate and oft despised country. George W. Bush will go down as one of the worst, and perhaps The Worst President in U.S. history. Republican spin will not and cannot rewrite this mess.

    April 24, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  2. nc girl

    Understandable. Micky Mouse would out weigh the one we have today!

    April 24, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  3. Pete

    Well, fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.
    Even boot camp and ex wife's looks better in the rear view mirror. Especially when the next car hits her too.

    April 24, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. AmericansForSensibleGovernment

    Second Worst president in Modern History. First was Nixon.

    April 24, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  5. Joe S

    It does not take a mental giant to realize the damage Bush and his cronies did to this country. Two wars and a financial meltdown will always be his legacy, no matter what the spin is. In all honesty, I think he is inherently a good man who let Dick Cheney run his government and make his decisions. Rumsfeld and Cheney were his nemesis. Unfortunately he can't delete them from his legacy.

    April 24, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. Dano

    Time makes people forget just how bad things were between 2004 – 2008. I think, judged in a historical context, W's presidency will be considered one of the worst ever.

    April 24, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. Art

    He'll be Ronald Reagan in 2040.

    April 24, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. murcielago

    yet another example of americans not able to make up their mind ?

    April 24, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. conniesz

    W will probably gain popularity in the short term, but like Regan, the further into the future we're talking the worse they will both look. You can skew reality and memories for a short term but a good long look back at the events of a particular time give a much better view of an era and a president. Take Adams for example – although there's a soft spot for him because he was one of the founders – as a president he was pretty awful and attempted to take power that was not rightly his. Regan is losing his luster as well. A truly great president leaves a mark that cannot be erased, but the mediocre (and most fall in to that category) fail to maintain the rosy glow their partisans want to give them at the time they were in office and shortly thereafter.

    April 24, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  10. micheal renken

    well i am feeling that we can not trust our government so what do we do if we are going to stop this.
    I hate our gov.!!!!!

    April 24, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. PJ

    "Compared to Obama, he was a success. The Dems know we were all better off then."
    Maybe, but why were "we better off"? We trusted our President to do the right thing, we didn't think to
    look behind the scenes and see that the Republicans were spending money like crazy. Misleading the
    American people that things were better, by not adding the war debts to the budget; allowing the
    manipulators of the housing market free reign to give loans to unqualified people, then selling the loans
    off while taking their profits.
    We didn't know how corrupt and greedy these people were. Halliburton no-bid contracts. No one paid attention.
    We trusted, and now we are paying a hefty price. Our young people killed and maimed by a war that
    was totally unnecessary. We are still paying (I guess) for the largest Embassy in the World, and for what???
    We didn't see the looming fiscal cliff we were headed for. For that, we can blame ourselves. Never again.
    I don't want to see this library. I am still living the nightmare produced by this administration.

    April 24, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  12. Kristen

    Bush vs. Obama how the world has changed. We're all still working hard out here!!! Vote for me to go to NYC!

    April 24, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  13. Julian

    Ok CNN........I have a Breaking News for you.................., see the result of last year election and you may understand that huge % of people did not vote for Mitt because the policies were the same old, same old as W Bush too...., cut taxes for rich, increase Defense, etc etc......

    April 24, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  14. Donnie the Lion

    GWB never set any real goals for what he wanted to accomplish. He was put into a reactive position VERY quickly. His style was to shoot first and ask questions later.....and it didn't translate well into policy. He was led around by Cheney and other Washington insiders. It was not a great presidency by any means.

    April 24, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  15. Josh

    Wait, Dems hate him and Reps like him? It's almost like... The exact same thing that is going on now with Obama but the sides are switched. Bush got dealt a crappy hand with 9/11 and the War on Terror. It derailed all of his initial plans that he had coming into office (insert Democrat "learn to color in the lines" joke -.-). Everyone loves to say (in retrospect and 11+ years of Intel gathering) that he jumped the gun and did a terrible job with all of it but you all forget that 90% or more of the country supported him at times. What would anyone have done differently at the time? All the Intel that he had was the exact same that every Democrat that approved the war had. If he is to blame so are they. Dems love to blame Congress now, but back then I guess they could do no wrong, eh? Unless you are of the mind that he just lied about everything for personal gain which I would say that is just blind hatred. If he was going to do a cover up or mislead the public starting the war he would have darn sure made certain that there were WMDs in Iraq, even if there weren't when he got there. He was wrong but at least he was honest. Not the "I won't take blame for anything" mentality of Obama and his administration.

    So here are the facts, Dems will always hate him. Independents will most likely slowly warm up to him. And Reps will support him. Just like it will be with Obama in the end. Shoe will just be on the other foot.

    April 24, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  16. Buckwheat

    If you think the presidency of Jr. Bush was a success, then you are part of the problem with this country. Let me be clear here...if that number that feels his presidency was anything other than an abject failure ever tops 50%, it will be symptomatic of much worse, systemic problems–the end of the republic.

    April 24, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  17. Jack

    What's the matter with people? He started two wars and put them on a credit card. He caused the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression, one that we're all still paying for, and they've changed their minds about him? The idiocy of this country is sometimes astonishing.

    April 24, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  18. Karen

    Big whoopdi doo. The point is that we care when they are in Office. When he left Office, his approval rating was 25% and that it shall remain. Why are you writing this stupid story anyway? Don't have enough real news?

    April 24, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  19. BO

    Washing post.poll has approval at 47% Bush – 47% Obama according to the Huffington Post.

    April 24, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  20. Koop

    Why is this even news?

    April 24, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  21. Dutch

    So now we're in the business of predicting history? lol
    Anyways, this poll tell us more about the Republican base than about GWB. And it doesn't look good for either.

    April 24, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  22. Eric W

    How is this "breaking news"?

    April 24, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. maximusvad

    Mission Complete.

    April 24, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  24. JoJo

    I think his father was a man of substance (a WWII veteran who conducted a successful Persian Gulf War) but no presentation (considered a "wimp"). His son was the reverse. G.W.Bush pretended to be a tough cowboy and started a war in Iraq that violated centuries old Judeo-Christian Just War Criteria, while calling himself a "Christian" and dodging the draft when it was his turn, like the war profiteer Cheney.

    April 24, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. BobZemko

    I love the Dubya-defenders who say "But he kept us safe after 9/11 . . . . "
    Do they forget that 9/11 happened ON HIS WATCH? How much intelligence regarding the attacks was ignored by his fellow incompetents like Cheney and Rice.

    Let's not forget how well he handled Hurricane Katrina.

    April 24, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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