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Public perception of George W. Bush

George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, has inspired a variety of perceptions regarding his policies, personality and performance as a head of state. In the U.S. and elsewhere, journalists, polling organizations and others have documented the expression of an evolving array of opinions of President Bush. Time magazine named George W. Bush as its Person of the Year for 2000 and 2004, citing him as the most influential person during these two years. Bush began his presidency with approval ratings near 50%. In the time of national crisis following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bush enjoyed approval ratings of greater than 85%, maintaining 80–90% approval for four months after the attacks. Since then, his approval ratings and approval of handling of domestic and foreign policy issues have steadily dropped. Polls conducted in early 2006 showed an average of around 40% for Bush, up slightly from the previous September, but still historically low from a President coming off his State of the Union Address, which generally provides a boost. In a poll conducted between July 25 and 27, 2008, Bush's approval rating hit an all-time low of 22%, according to a Research 2000 poll. However, Bush's approval rating remains in the low 30s according to a Gallup Poll taken during the same time period.

As of February 20, 2008, George W. Bush's approval rating had plummeted to 19% in some polls, according to the American Research Group. With the record low having previously been Herbert Hoover's 22% approval rating, George W. Bush now holds the record of the lowest approval rating ever recorded for a sitting U.S. President. Additionally, he also holds the record for highest disapproval rating, with a 78% disapproval rating and the record for the highest disapproval rating ever recorded by Gallup Poll for any sitting president with 69% of those polls disapproving of the job Bush was doing as president and only 28% approving. Gallup also concluded that Bush might be the most unpopular president in American history.

An August Rasmussen poll found that 41% of respondents agreed that George W. Bush is the worst President in American history, while 50% disagreed, and 9% were unsure.


At the beginning of his first term, Bush was regarded by some as lacking political legitimacy due to his narrow victory in Florida and the attendant controversy surrounding his electoral college victory, which included accusations of vote suppression and tampering. Bush has also been accused of squandering opportunities for uniting Americans across party lines. While routinely criticized by Democrats, Bush has also divided legitimate Republicans, American Hollywood celebrities, and sports and media personalities, many of whom have engaged in heated criticism of Bush. Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore's 2004 movie Fahrenheit 9/11 accused Bush of using public sentiments following 9/11 for political purposes and lying about the cause for war in Iraq. Bush has also been subject to criticism in the international community: he has been targeted by the global anti-war and anti-globalization campaigns, and criticized for his American foreign policy. Bush's policies were also the subject of heated criticism in the 2002 elections in Germany and the 2006 elections in Canada. Bush has been openly condemned by liberal and leftist politicians such as Gerhard Schröder, Jean Chrétien, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Romano Prodi, Paul Martin, and Hugo Chávez. Diplomatic visits made by Bush have been characterized by protests, sometimes of a significant scale.

Bush has enjoyed strong support among Republicans and Americans holding conservative and pro-military views, and for the 2004 elections, 95-98% of the Republican electorate approved of and voted for Bush, a figure exceeding the approval of Ronald Reagan. This support has waned, however, due mostly to Republicans' growing frustration with Bush on the issues of spending and illegal immigration. Some Republicans have even begun criticizing Bush on his policies in Iraq, Iran and the Palestinian territories. Bush has also enjoyed strong personal and working relationships with foreign leaders such as Tony Blair, as well as good rapport with Vladimir Putin and Vicente Fox. Here, tensions have arisen, such as the cooling of the relationship between Bush and Putin. Privately, Bush has expressed regret at the effusiveness he displayed after his first meeting with Putin. "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy...I was able to get a sense of his soul."

From time to time, Bush's intellectual capacities have been questioned by the media and other politicians leading to speculation about his IQ, of which no official record is known.

Detractors tend to cite the various linguistic errors made by Bush during his public speeches (colloquially known as Bushisms). Bush's habit of mispronouncing words has received much ridicule in the media and in popular culture. Even as early as the 2000 presidential debates, this was the subject of a Saturday Night Live sketch (see Strategery). Perhaps his most famous mispronunciation is that of "nucular" instead of "nuclear". It should be noted, however, that he is not the only American president to have done this, and that Merriam-Webster Online considers this an acceptable pronunciation (though adding a footnote defending its inclusion).

In 18 of 21 countries surveyed around the world, a majority of respondents were found to hold an unfavorable opinion of Bush. Respondents indicated that they judged his administration as "negative" for world security. A poll taken in mid September 2006 indicated that 48 percent of Americans believed the war with Iraq has made the U.S. less safe, while 41 percent believed the war has made the U.S. safer from terrorism. Another poll shows that a majority of Americans, by a margin of 61 to 35 percent, believe that the United States is not better off because of Bush's policies. Another poll conducted in Britain placed Bush at the second biggest "threat to the world peace" right after Bin Laden, and topped North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. According to poll taken in November 2006, a majority of Finns also believe that Bush is the second biggest "threat to world peace" right after Bin Laden. Kim Jong-Il came 3rd in the poll and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Nasrallah shared 4th position.

Some people, such as Benjamin Ferencz, a chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, hold the view that Bush should be tried for war crimes along with Saddam Hussein for starting wars of aggression. They argue that the US-led invasion was a war of aggression, and therefore under the Nuremberg Principles it constitutes the supreme international crime from which all other war crimes follow. States which are party to the International Criminal Court have not yet agreed on a definition of what constitutes a war of aggression, nor the conditions under which criminal proceedings can take place, so the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court declares wars of aggression outside of its jurisdiction until agreement is reached.

Other experts have also regarded the Bush Administration's decision to invade Iraq as the supreme international crime, a crime against the peace: "There was no authorization from the U.N. Security Council ... and that made it a crime against the peace," said Francis Boyle, professor of international law, who also said the U.S. Army's field manual required such authorization for an offensive war. Historians point out that every permanent member of the U.N. Security Council has undertaken at least one war without the council's permission or endorsement, and no such authorization came from the U.N. in other U.S. led wars and/or interventions such as Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, Panama, Grenada, or President Jimmy Carter's attempt to rescue American hostages during the Iran Hostage Crisis.


Bush began his presidency with approval ratings near 50%. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bush held approval ratings of greater than 85%, among the highest for any President. Since then, his approval ratings and approval of his handling of domestic, economic, and foreign policy issues have steadily declined, and despite consistent efforts to do so, President Bush and his Administration have been unable to rally public support for the past three years, which each year seeing a steady decline in the Administration's support level to the point of Bush eventually dropping to a 19% approval rating and 77% disapproval rating, both records for a sitting president.

In 2002, Bush had the highest approval rating of any president during a midterm congressional election since Dwight Eisenhower. In an unusual deviation from the historical trend of midterm elections, the Republican Party regained control of the Senate and added to its majority in the House of Representatives. Typically, the President's party loses congressional seats in the midterm elections; 2002 marked only the third midterm election since the Civil War that the party in control of the White House gained seats in both houses of Congress (others were 1902 and 1934).

In 2003, Bush's approval spiked upward at the time of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in February. The upward trend continued through the invasion of Iraq in March. By late 2003, when presidential opponents began their campaigns in earnest, his approval numbers were in the low to middle 50s. Most polls tied the decline to growing concern over the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq and a slow recovery from the 2001 recession. Polls of May 2004 showed anywhere from a 53% to a 46% approval rating.

Polls conducted in early 2006 showed an average of around 40% for Bush, relatively low for a president coming off his State of the Union Address, which generally provides a boost.

In April 2006, the president's approval in the polls continued the trend. Four states continue to maintain a positive approval rating: Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Nebraska. His disapproval rating in traditionally red states had risen, with higher than 60% of voters disapproving in Ohio, Florida, Arkansas, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, Missouri and Iowa. Even in his conservative-spun homestate of Texas, disapproval reached 51 percent. His disapproval rating in several American states had reached an all time high, with more than 70% disapproving in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, Vermont and New York. His highest approval rating stood at 55% in Utah, and his lowest, 24%, in Rhode Island.

In polls conducted between August 7 and August 16, 2006, Bush's average approval rating was 37.0%, and his average disapproval rating was 57.3%.

At the conclusion of 2006, an AP-AOL News telephone poll of 1,004 adults found President George W. Bush to be both the top villain and hero of the year. The president was followed in the villain poll by Osama bin Laden, who took in 8 percent to Bush's 25 percent, Saddam Hussein (6 percent) and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (5 percent). In the hero poll, Bush's 13 percent was followed by: Soldiers/troops in Iraq (6 percent), Jesus Christ (3 percent), Barack Obama (3 percent) and Oprah Winfrey (3 percent).

Polls conducted after Bush's Troop Surge strategy was announced in January 2007 showed his approval rating had dropped to approximately 32.0%. A recent poll by Mirror also suggested that 48% of the Americans believe Bush to have the lowest intelligence of all post WWII Presidents.

On February 13, 2008, an average of major polls indicated that Bush's approval rating stood at 33.3%. The same average showed, for polls issued during the period from September 5 to September 16, 2008, that Bush's approval rating was 31.9%, and his disapproval rating was 64.8%.

December 2005 Rasmussen poll on Iraq

A poll by Rasmussen Reports on December 10, 2005 asked, "Should President Bush be impeached and removed from office?" 32% said "yes," and 58% said "no. Earlier polls asked conditional versions of the impeachment question. For example, Zogby International on November 2, 2005 asked whether respondents agreed with the statement, "If President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment." Americans agreed with this, 53% to 42%.

October 2006 Newsweek poll on impeachment

A poll by Newsweek on October 19, 2006 revealed that 51% of respondents believed that the impeachment of George W. Bush should be a priority. This poll drew the ironic jab of political commentators, with comparisons to Bush referring to his 2004 election margin of 51% as a mandate.

Foreign perception of Bush

Opinions of Bush from outside the U.S. are widely less favorable. For example, a global sampling of 21 nations found that 58% of those sampled believed that the president's reelection would have a negative impact on their peace and security. Only 26% believed it would have a positive one.

In specific countries

The United Kingdom's Daily Mirror newspaper ran the following headline the day of Bush's reelection: “How Can 59,054,087 People Be So Dumb?”, underlining Bush's unpopularity in some sections of the British press. Among the population of Britain, two-thirds of the population holds a dim view of Bush, a figure that is duplicated in Canada. Bush fares slightly better in Italy, where just over half of the population has a negative view, but much worse in other countries. “Three-quarters of those in Spain and more than 80% in France and Germany had a negative view of President Bush's role in world affairs. In Turkey, 72% of those polled said that George Bush's re-election made them “feel worse about Americans". In November 2006, a survey taken in Great Britain, Mexico, and Canada showed that they believe Bush is more dangerous than North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Islamic world

In Islamic countries, opinion of Bush is even less favorable. In these Islamic countries, Bush's unfavorable ratings are particularly high, often over 90%. In Jordan, for example, Bush’s favorable rating is only nine percent.

Favorable opinion

Bush enjoys somewhat more favorable views among the populations of some allied states, though they are usually a minority of the countries polled. In one multi-nation poll after Bush’s 2004 reelection, India and the Philippines were the only countries (out of 21 that were polled) where a majority (about 60%) saw his return to office as positive for peace and security in the world. In one poll of ten countries, Israel was the only country where the population had a net favorable opinion, with 62 percent favoring Bush.


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