Bush's Final Approval Rating: 22 Percent

President George W. Bush gives his farewell speech, Jan. 15, 2009. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

President Bush will leave office as one of the most unpopular departing presidents in history, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll showing Mr. Bush's final approval rating at 22 percent.

Seventy-three percent say they disapprove of the way Mr. Bush has handled his job as president over the last eight years.

Mr. Bush's final approval rating is the lowest final rating for an outgoing president since Gallup began asking about presidential approval more than 70 years ago.

The rating is far below the final ratings of recent two-term presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, who both ended their terms with a 68 percent approval rating, according to CBS News polling.

Recent one term presidents also had higher ratings than Mr. Bush. His father George H.W. Bush had an end-of-term rating of 54 percent, while Jimmy Carter's rating was 44 percent.

Harry Truman had previously had the lowest end-of-term approval at 32 percent, as measured by Gallup.

Views of Mr. Bush's popularity are highly partisan. Only 6 percent of Democrats approve of the job he has done as president, while 57 percent of Republicans approve. Eighteen percent of independents approve.

Interestingly, Mr. Bush also has the distinction of having the highest approval rating for a president, as well as the lowest.

In November 2008, just before the presidential election, only 20 percent approved of the job he was doing as president - the lowest of any president since Gallup began asking the question in 1938.

But Mr. Bush enjoyed a high approval rating of 90 percent -- the highest of any president -- following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Mr. Bush edged out his father for that highest rating. George H.W. Bush received an 88 percent approval rating in 1991 amid the success of the first Gulf War.

Truman comes closest to Mr. Bush's record low approval rating of 20 percent. In February 1952, just 22 percent of Americans approved of the job Truman was doing as president.

Evaluations Of The President

Half of all Americans, when they look back on Mr. Bush's eight years in office, believe he has been a poor president. Thirty-three percent think he has been an average president. Twelve percent say he has been a good president, and only 5 percent say he has been a very good president.

This evaluation is more negative than the ones Americans gave both the current president's predecessor, Mr. Clinton, and the president's father.

The president has also fallen short of expectations: As Mr. Bush was preparing to enter the White House in January 2001, 43 percent thought he would be a very good or good president. Only 12 percent thought he would be a poor one.

As for the incoming president, the CBS News poll also asked about expectations of President-elect Barack Obama. Sixty-eight percent think Mr. Obama will be a good or very good president - 25 points higher than expectations for Mr. Bush.

Nine in 10 Democrats expect Mr. Obama to be a good president, including 48 percent who think he will be a "very good" one. Republicans are less hopeful, but 38 percent still say Mr. Obama will be a good president.

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Opinions of Mr. Bush personally have also taken a hit since his term began, and he receives his lowest favorability rating of his presidency in this poll. Just 26 percent of Americans view the president favorably, while 60 percent view him negatively. In February 2001, a month into his presidency, 42 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of Mr. Bush.

Vice President Dick Cheney

Vice President Dick Cheney also leaves office amid negative perceptions, as his approval rating stands at just 13 percent. That matches his lowest approval since he assumed office.

Forty-four percent of Americans now view Cheney unfavorably, while 42 percent are undecided or haven't heard enough.

This is a reversal from March 2001, when CBS News took its first measure of Cheney's favorability as vice president. Back then, 34 percent held a favorable opinion of the vice president and only 11 percent viewed him unfavorably.

On The Issues

Assessments of Mr. Bush's handling of two critical issues - the war in Iraq and the economy - are poor. He does better on the issue of terrorism - his strongest area during his years as president - but, even here, less than half approve of his handling of the issue.

In light of the Sept. 11 attacks and the U.S. military action in Iraq two years later, terrorism and the Iraq war have come to define Mr. Bush's presidency. The nation's struggling economy has recently had an impact as well.

Mr. Bush never received stellar ratings on the economy, but as the nation's economic concerns have become more severe, his rating on the issue has plummeted. Currently, 17 percent approve and 77 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy.

In September 2008, amid the collapse and subsequent bailout of some of the nation's financial institutions, just 16 percent approved of the president's handling of the economy - a record low for him. His highest rating on the economy came in October 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
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