Six in 10 Americans, or 61 percent, say they now have a favorable view of George W. Bush in the latest CNN poll conducted by SSRS, nearly double the 33 percent who gave him a favorable mark when he left the White House in January 2009.
The 43rd U.S. president’s mark is lower than Barack Obama’s 66 percent favorable rating in the same poll, but significantly higher than the 40 percent favorable rating for President Donald Trump.
Most of Bush’s climb back to popularity came from Democrats and independents. His favorability mark among Democrats has soared from only 11 percent in February 2009 to a majority 54 percent now.
In fact, Bush holds a majority favorable rating among every demographic group but liberals — including strong Democratic groups like nonwhites and people under 35 years old.
When it comes to Republicans, his marks are virtually the same as they were immediately after he left office. His favorability climbed from 76 percent among Republicans a month after he left office to 88 percent in a 2015 poll from CNN/ORC — but it’s fallen back down to 76 percent in the Trump era.
Despite the climb overall, Republican disapproval of the former president has tripled from 7 percent to 21 percent since 2015.
It’s not uncommon for a president’s favorability numbers to improve after leaving office. Bill Clinton’s favorability climbed from 51 percent when he left office to 64 percent in a 2015 poll, though his favorable sank lower — to 47 percent — in October 2016 when his wife, Hillary Clinton, was pursuing her own White House bid. Obama’s favorability has climbed from 59 percent shortly after Election Day to 66 percent now.
Bush has spoken out against the sitting GOP President a few times over the course of Trump’s presidency so far.
“Our identity as a nation, unlike other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. … This means that people from every race, religion, ethnicity can be full and equally American,” Bush said at an October event. “It means that bigotry and white supremacy, in any form, is blasphemy against the American creed,” he continued, adding that “bigotry seems emboldened.”
Bush also put out a joint statement with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, in the wake of white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms,” after Trump said there was blame on “both sides” for the violence in August.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS Jan. 14 to 18 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. No interviewing was completed on Jan. 16 due to weather conditions at call center locations. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.