Americans reported higher approval of former President George W. Bush than for President Barack Obama in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Wednesday. Of 1,025 Americans who responded to a phone survey, 52 percent said they viewed the former president in a favorable light, while 49 percent felt the same way about the current commander in chief.
The new results represent a slight change of heart for Americans who have consistently rated Bush unfavorably by a slim margin over the past decade.
It’s not uncommon for a president’s ratings to lift after leaving the White House, and it certainly seems that spending time away from the Oval Office has helped Bush’s image. He suffered chronically low ratings throughout the last half of his presidency. Public opinion bottomed out when 63 percent of respondents reported an unfavorable view of him about a month after he handed over the presidency in 2009.
The new poll reveals a jump for Bush from a year ago when 46 percent of Americans viewed him in a favorable light. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who express a favorable attitude toward Obama has also improved from 47 percent to 49 percent– but the current president’s favorability is not growing as quickly as the rate for the former.
Meanwhile, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is still expected to throw his hat into the ring as a presidential candidate in the 2016 election. The recent boost in his brother’s ratings led Daniel Strauss at Talking Points Memo to speculate that the former president may play a larger role in his brother’s campaign than previously thought. However, the same advantage may be available to Hillary Clinton whose husband, former President Bill Clinton, outranked Bush in the same poll, with 64 percent of Americans reporting a favorable opinion of him.
The in-depth phone poll was conducted over three days in late May. Pollsters posed dozens of questions to participants about overall job approval and Obama’s performance on specific policy issues. To rate favorability of former presidents and Obama, they asked, “As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of these people.”