Bush's Final Approval Rating: 22 Percent

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.


On Iraq, the public was behind Mr. Bush when the U.S. began military action nearly six years ago. In April 2003, a majority approved of the president's action and 79 percent of Americans approved of the way Mr. Bush was handling the situation in Iraq - his highest rating ever on this question.

As the war continued and the U.S. casualties increased, public support began to wane. A year after the war began, 49 percent of Americans approved of the president's handling of the war. In December 2006, only 21 percent approved of Mr. Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq - his lowest rating ever on this issue.

The last time a majority of Americans approved of the president's handling of the Iraq war was immediately after the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003.

Currently, 25 percent approve and 71 percent disapprove.

Terrorism has been the president's strongest area throughout his presidency. In December 2001, 90 percent of Americans approved of his handling of the campaign against terrorism - his highest rating ever. The president continued to receive positive marks on the issue throughout his first term. But an unpopular war began to taint even these evaluations of him.

In October 2005, for the first time, fewer than half of Americans approved of Mr. Bush's handling of terrorism. Now, 47 percent approve and 48 percent disapprove.

A Look Back

In February 2001, the CBS News Poll took its first measure of the job Mr. Bush was doing as president: 53 percent of Americans approved and only 21 percent disapproved. That rating soared to 90 percent a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The 43rd president's overall ratings tapered off somewhat but remained high throughout the remainder of 2001 and 2002. And in March 2003, after the initial days of the U.S. war in Iraq, 68 percent of Americans approved of the job Mr. Bush was doing as president.

By the fall of 2003, as the fighting in Iraq continued, Mr. Bush's approval rating began to decline. In November of that year, 49 percent approved of the job he was doing. It was the first time his approval rating was below 50 percent.

The president's approval rating improved after the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003, but it fell as the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib came to light in the spring of 2004. In May 2004, just 41 percent of Americans approved of the job Mr. Bush was doing as president - his lowest rating to date at that point in time.

Heading into the 2004 presidential election, 49 percent of Americans approved of the president's performance. Just after he was re-elected, 51 percent approved - the last time a majority approved of the job Bush was doing.

But at no time during his second term in office would his approval rating reach 50 percent.

For the most part, the president's job rating continued to decline throughout his second term. In October 2005, with images of Hurricane Katrina still in the minds of many, his approval rating dipped below 40 percent for the first time, and in January 2007, fewer than 30 percent of Americans approved of the job Mr. Bush was doing.

In a poll conducted just before the 2008 presidential election, only 20 percent of Americans said they approved of the job President Bush was doing as president - the lowest rating for any president. Seventy-two percent disapproved.



This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,112 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone January 11-15, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

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