or the first time since 2005, more Americans view former President George W. Bush favorably (49 percent) than unfavorably (46 percent), according to a new Gallup poll. That amounts to a huge swing from Bush's low point in 2008, when only 32 percent gave Bush positive marks compared with 66 percent who gave him an unfavorable rating.
His improvement has actually been strongest among Democrats — 10 percent of whom viewed him favorably in March 2009, compared with 24 percent when this new survey was taken in early June.
Why the big change? There are a host of possible explanations. One is simply that Bush's poll numbers were so low when he left office that he had nowhere to go but up.
Or perhaps time has healed old wounds. Gallup notes that some degree of improvement was to be expected "given Americans' generally positive views of former presidents, and it would not be out of the question for Bush's image to continue to improve in future years." Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter are all viewed favorably by more than 60 percent of Gallup respondents.
Another thing driving Bush's quiet resurgence has to be the fact that he's no longer the subject of a constant stream of negative headlines. Allahpundit at Hot Air notes that Bush has remained low-key since leaving office. The coverage he has received, Allahpundit says, has had a positive spin — his dabbling in painting, the opening of his presidential library — and may "have taken a little of the hard partisan edge off of the way people see him."
Plus, it's easy to see why people would warm to Bush, Allahpundit says, now that President Obama, who was elected to succeed him on a wave of optimism, is the one facing a barrage of negative press.
After a solid month of Scandalmania and a big speech from President Dronestrike about his body count in Pakistan and Yemen, there's less of a contrast between Hopenchange and the administration that preceded it. Those who disliked Bush but never quite hated him like the Left did might conclude for various reasons that he's less to blame for some of his failings than they thought — maybe because they've concluded that Obama isn't to blame for the scandals currently besieging him or maybe because they've been nudged by O towards a more Bushian view of subjects like foreign intervention. When the guy you're stuck with is doing badly, it's only natural to feel a little nostalgic for what came before. Even for a guy whose approval rating sunk to the low 30s. [Hot Air]
Of course, the fact that Bush has been out of the headlines for several years now points to another simple reason for his improving image. It's the one Laura Beck at Jezebel says explains everything. "Americans have shitty, shitty memories," she says. Forty-nine percent now give him the thumb's up? "Never bet against America's ability to forget!"
Timing, too, might have something to do with it. "It's worth noting that this poll was conducted before news broke that the government has been sticking its nose in everyone's deepest darkest business," says Peter Z. Scheer at Truthdig, "something that started as one of The Decider's famous decisions." Taking his thought a step farther, there's reason to think Bush's numbers might dip again if people draw the connection between the National Security Agency's controversial collection of telephone-call logs and overseas internet contacts and the president whose administration gave the programs the green light.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- If a nuclear bomb exploded in downtown Washington, what should you do?
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- There's a number of reasons the grammar of this headline could infuriate you
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How to be more satisfied with your life, according to science
- The contentious policy at the heart of Cliven Bundy's armed standoff with the government
- How to flirt, according to science
- The Warren Buffett formula: How you can get smarter
- This Japanese toilet should make Americans very worried
Subscribe to the Week