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George W. Bush Least Popular Living Ex-President

A new poll that George W. Bush is the least popular of the four living ex-Presidents:

Three and a half years after leaving office, a survey Thursday shows that former President George W. Bush remains unpopular among a majority of Americans — the only living president with an under 50 percent approval rating.

Only 43 percent of respondents had a favorable view of Bush, compared with 54 percent who had an unfavorable view, according to a CNN/ORC poll.

The 43rd president’s approval rating has improved somewhat since he left office, however — in 2009, his approval rating was in the mid-30s.

(…)

Other living former presidents perform significantly better. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, has a 59 percent approval, to 34 percent disapproval. Jimmy Carter is viewed favorably by 54 percent of the public, and unfavorably by about 30 percent. The 42nd president, Bill Clinton, is the most popular of the living former presidents, with a 66 percent favorable rating. Only 31 percent say they hold unfavorable views of Clinton.

Of course, it’s worth noting that Bush is the most recent of the ex-Presidents as well, and that it has historically been the case that public opinion of a former President tends to increase as time goes by. Likely this is due both to the passage of time itself, and the fact that former Presidents may seem better by comparison to the then-current occupant of the Oval Office. Just look at the numbers for President George H.W. Bush and President Carter, both of whom lost their re-election bids and left office with relatively low approval numbers. They’re both well above 50% now, and Bush Sr. is near 60%. Give it time, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bush’s son somewhere north of 50 percent in a decade or so. That’s the way these things tend to work out.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. He won’t live down Iraq and Afghanistan any time soon. There is a young generation who will carry “what were we thinking?” all their lives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  2. Bleev K says:

    43% is freaking huge!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Dizzy says:

    LOL..what a spin!

    The article doesn’t mention that Bush’s popularity went up 15% while Obama’s went down 26% over the same period.

    Over time, people forget about or don’t learn about all the absolute retardation than Jimmy Carter did during his time in office.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 16

  4. Tillman says:

    9/11 will be more memorable than the president who was in office that day. Most every policy someone could hate in the Bush administration came from 9/11.

    I wonder if there’s been any scholarship on Pearl Harbor in a similar vein, or if that case can even be made.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Tillman says:

    @Dizzy:

    The article doesn’t mention that Bush’s popularity went up 15% while Obama’s went down 26% over the same period.

    Most people would trade the high of a bubble for the low of a depression any day of the week.

    It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a class of people convinced beyond reason that nothing bad happened economically until Obama took office, since he became a prominent national figure months before the shocks started.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  6. Hurling Dervish says:

    I wonder how much popularity is connected to what they do after their presidency. The other ex-presidents (with a half-exception for Bush Sr) have gone on to do a great amount of public service after their time in office. Nixon wrote scholarly books that boosted his reputation. Bush, Jr. has notable done basically nothing in that vein, and Cheney has served as his main public spokesman.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  7. JKB says:

    I’m going to adopt the frequent argument made here;

    No, he’s not!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  8. CB says:

    Give it time, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bush’s son somewhere north of 50 percent in a decade or so. That’s the way these things tend to work out.

    If we lived in a just world, he would never see his rating inch a single tick above zero, ever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

  9. Moosebreath says:

    “Jimmy Carter is viewed favorably by 54 percent of the public, and unfavorably by about 30 percent.”

    Given how often Republicans tell us that Carter is, in words of The Simpsons, History’s Greatest Monster, I am amazed that he has the lowest unfavorable numbers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  10. @Tillman:

    Most every policy someone could hate in the Bush administration came from 9/11.

    Not really. The spending was separate. The decision not to tax for the wars was really separate.

    And of course Iraq actually was separate. It was marketed as a response to 9/11, even as Saddam was himself anti al queda.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  11. “Do you think that U.S. involvement in the war against Iraq has had a positive effect on life in the United States generally, a negative effect on life in the United States, or hasn’t it had much effect on life in the United States generally?”

    In December ’11, there were 16% who answered “positive”, 52% who answered “negative” and 31% who answered “not much.”

    If you look back at March ’08 though, there were 63% “negative” and 21% “not much” with “positive” being about the same, at 15%.

    So the “not much” is growing.

    link

    … so Bush gains as people forget Iraq.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. al-Ameda says:

    Bush is the least popular? How could that be? Wage a completely unnecessary and deficit-funded war in Iraq, jam through a completely deficit-funded Medicare prescription drug program, cut taxes to widen our deficit, and presided over the worst collapse of the financial and housing markets since the Great Depression (one that caused the loss of over $10 trillion in wealth and income from the economy) – in that context it is really hard to understand why Bush would be so unpopular.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  13. It is kind of mind-boggling to me that Iraq can poll 15 or 16 percent “positive,” while the guy who brought it to us can poll 43 percent.

    I’d guess that it is a case of identity politics in action. Bush was “on the team” even if he was a bad player.

    Related:

    Democrats felt sympathy for a Democrat in the story 100% of the time. Republicans felt sympathy for a Republican protagonist 96% of the time.

    But when the freezing or thirsty person in the story was from the other party, sympathy died almost completely: The sympathy of Democrats fell to 0% and the sympathy of Republicans fell to 9.5%.

    A really sad read on the human condition. I do think my self-identity as an independent helps me here. I can say that I like Sarah Palin on a personal basis, and would be happy to camp with her and Todd in real life. I certainly don’t want her falling in the water!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. MBunge says:

    I’m not surprised to see Bush the Younger’s popularity improve. Despite all the caterwauling from the right, there really hasn’t been a lot of Bush-bashing in the last few years. That’s largely because so many people on both sides of the aisle and in the media were complicit in so many of the disasterous things that happened during his time in office.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Hell, that’s nothing. In any CNN “poll” Bush 43 will be least popular president, whether today, 10 years from now or 100 years from now. Seriously. Lowest common denominator principle combined with bogus polling.

    There’s also the reality that Bush Derangement Syndrome, like any mental disorder, has long-term residual effects.

    That said, however, Mataconis is correct in noting that as the years go by even the addled people from whom CNN obtains polling samples will change their tunes, at least to some degrees. The grad student who today believes Bush is the worst living ex-president eventually will grow up. The government clerical worker who today thinks Bush is the worst president in their lifetime eventually will clue in, especially given the fact that so many public sector workers over the next decade or two will be laid off and will have to find their ways in the private sector. Needing to be sentient helps cognition.

    Concerning Bush’s presidency, it really is a mixed bag. Generally speaking he was stellar on foreign policies. He was terrible with respect to spending and the deficit. Some of his legislative and regulatory endeavors were good (energy reform, tort reform), others were horrible (Medicare D, steel tariffs). Mostly he was stellar with regard to the federal courts. The Social Security pitch was Quixotic. He defeated his own causes in various respects by being stubborn and often naive. He was saddled with a milquetoast cadre of Congressional Republicans, a media so hostile it boggled the mind, bad luck, and a public that largely had devolved into mental catatonia before he took office. Overall I’d give him an A for effort but a B+ for his accomplishments.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 14

  16. Gustopher says:

    Give it time, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bush’s son somewhere north of 50 percent in a decade or so. That’s the way these things tend to work out.

    50%+1 — that’s all the approval his campaigns ever aimed for, and he was the most divisive of the recent presidents, so I don’t see him passing that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  17. LightsOut says:

    There’s also the reality that Bush Derangement Syndrome, like any mental disorder, has long-term residual effects.

    Generally speaking he was stellar on foreign policies.

    Hmmm…Bush Derangement Syndrome, you say?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  18. mattb says:

    @Moosebreath: you beat me to it.

    Everyone knows that Carter is history’s greatest monster!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. Bleev K says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Generally speaking he was stellar on foreign policies.

    Remind me in what dimension do you live in?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  20. Dan says:

    @john personna:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Dan says:

    Well, I am certain anyone who knows someone that was killed or seriously injured in Iraq would never answer: “Somewhat harmful”.

    The Iraq war did significant harm to the nation!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. Dan says:

    @al-Ameda:

    The audacity surrounding it all too….VP Cheney running away from military service four times in his prior life. Putting Halliburton’s interests ahead of the American people’s. The hypocrisy too: his supporters whined about Bush bashing, but had no problems doing the same to Clinton and now with Obama.

    Bush’s selection is a major “no brainer” and I believe the unpopularity will continue for several years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. @Dan:

    Sad news today: Suicide rate among US troops hits all-time high

    Army data suggest soldiers with multiple combat tours are at greater risk of committing suicide, although a substantial proportion of Army suicides are committed by soldiers who never deployed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Tillman says:

    @john personna: And you think they could’ve marketed Iraq without 9/11?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. @Tillman:

    When you wrote this:

    Most every policy someone could hate in the Bush administration came from 9/11.

    It sure sounded like you were using direct attribution, and not saying “a lot was hung off 9/11 in post 2001 politics.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. An Interested Party says:

    Over time, people forget about or don’t learn about all the absolute retardation than Jimmy Carter did during his time in office.

    Indeed! Particularly with 9/11 and the Iraq debacle….oh wait, he wasn’t responsible for those…

    Concerning Bush’s presidency, it really is a mixed bag. Generally speaking he was stellar on foreign policies.

    Oh absolutely! Well, except for the Iraq disaster that benefited Iran…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. mattb says:

    @john personna:

    It sure sounded like you were using direct attribution, and not saying “a lot was hung off 9/11 in post 2001 politics.”

    Yet the same people who support most of those policies and defend the Iraq War still love to talk about how terrible and cynical it was for Rahm Emanuel to ever suggest that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste. “

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. lilshel says:

    @al-Ameda:

    You say President Bush presided over the worst housing market? If I remember clearly 3 years prior to the fall of the housing market John McCain called for an investigation of both Freddie and Fannie. Enter Barney Frank and Maxine Waters…..in a rebuttal….

    Frank…Everyone in America should be able to own a home. I agree however, they should be able to afford one and not allowed to borrow monies that they cannot afford to repay and/or to borrow 3-4 times the values of their homes.

    Maxine…This is not true!!! Freddie and Fannie are as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar!!! Alas, we know the end result.

    Just for the record…I am not a Republican and these were clips I actually saw. Not only that I sold RE for 10 years….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0