Politics & Government

Times change: Bush now more popular than Obama

FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2014 file photo, former President George W. Bush speaks the father's George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. A House panel has approved a bipartisan bill that would limit expenses for former presidents who earn more than $400,000 a year. Former presidents receive a pension of more than $200,000 a year, plus annual expenses that can add up to more than $1 million for office space and other costs. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File )
FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2014 file photo, former President George W. Bush speaks the father's George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. A House panel has approved a bipartisan bill that would limit expenses for former presidents who earn more than $400,000 a year. Former presidents receive a pension of more than $200,000 a year, plus annual expenses that can add up to more than $1 million for office space and other costs. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File ) AP

What a difference a few years have made for former President George W. Bush and how voters view him.

The Texas Republican was once the least popular living president in history, with his approval rating plunging to about 35 percent in January 2009, shortly after he left office. Conversely, his successor, President Barack Obama, had approval ratings of about 78 percent at that time, and numerous polls have rated the Democrat the most-liked leader of the free world.

But in a poll released Wednesday by CNN/ORC, the standings have reversed.

Bush is now seen favorably by 52 percent of Americans and unfavorably by 43 percent. Obama is seen unfavorably by 49 percent and favorably by 49 percent.

So now Bush’s numbers top the Democrat’s, and Obama’s make him the least-popular president among all his predecessors, according to the poll.

Granted, Obama is embroiled in controversy daily, while Bush is enjoying life outside the glare of the media spotlight, political scientists said.

“Bush’s increasing approval polling numbers are part of a general trend among former presidents,” Emily Farris, a political science professor at TCU in Fort Worth, told the Christian Science Monitor. “The American public tends to look more fondly on presidents after they have left office.”

Pollsters said that Bush remains widely unpopular among groups that opposed him while he was in office — Democrats, liberals and voters under 35. But he’s made gains over time even among those groups, pollsters said.

John Gravois, 817-390-7734

Twitter: @Grav1

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