PRINCETON, NJ — Americans’ views of former president George W. Bush have improved, with 49% now viewing him favorably and 46% unfavorably. That is the first time since 2005 that opinions of him have been more positive than negative.
Bush has maintained a fairly low profile in the four years since he left office. However, he returned to the public eye this year with the April opening of his presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Bush left office with 40% viewing him favorably and 59% unfavorably in January 2009. That worsened to 35% favorable and 63% unfavorable in March 2009, but his favorable rating recovered to the mid-40% range by 2010.
The June 1-4 poll shows further improvement in Americans’ ratings of Bush, which had not been more positive than negative since April 2005. Prior to then, Americans had always viewed Bush more favorably than unfavorably, including an 87% favorable rating in November 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That is one percentage point below the all-time high Gallup has measured for any public figure, shared by Colin Powell (2002) and Tiger Woods (2000).
Bush’s lowest favorable rating was 32% in April 2008, as the economy was in recession and gas prices were headed toward record highs in the U.S. Also at the time, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were engaged in a spirited campaign to become the Democratic nominee who would run for president to succeed Bush.
Americans Generally Kind to Ex-Presidents
The recovery in Bush’s image is not unexpected, given that Americans generally view former presidents positively. Gallup’s favorable ratings for Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all exceeded 60% when last measured.
George W. Bush’s lower rating may be due to his shorter time as an ex-president. For example, Clinton’s favorable rating, which dropped as low as 39% in the months after he left office, recovered to 56% roughly four years later — still better than George W. Bush’s current 49%, but not as positive as Clinton’s more recent ratings. Gallup did not measure favorable ratings in the current format for presidents prior to 1992. Its first post-presidency measure for the elder George Bush came eight years after he left office.
Bush More Popular Among All Party Groups Since 2009
George W. Bush’s favorable rating is more positive now among all party groups than it was in March 2009, when it dipped to 35% overall. Currently, 84% of Republicans, 46% of independents, and 24% of Democrats have a favorable view of Bush, each up more than 10 points since 2009.