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Most Disliked President Ever?

It doesn't take a political genius to figure out why Rudolph Giuliani is complaining that the United States has been too distracted by Iraq, should do more to hunt down Osama bin Laden and needs "strong, aggressive, bold leadership like we had with Ronald Reagan." Nor is it much wonder why Mitt Romney vows to "change the course of America" and says if the Iraq strategy is not working by September, "then we'll have to take alternative strategies."

They're running, after all, not just to replace President Bush but away from President Bush. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll helps explain. While most attention focuses on approval numbers, take a look at Bush's record-high disapproval rating -- a powerful indicator that the public has not just lost faith in him but actively rejected him. In our latest poll, Bush's disapproval rating stands at 65 percent, tying the high mark he has reached twice before in the last 14 months. And 52 percent disapprove "strongly," the most ever.

That puts Bush in position to be the most disliked president in at least seven decades. In Post and Gallup polling going back to 1938, only one president has seen a higher disapproval rating than Bush and that was Richard M. Nixon, who came in at 66 percent just four days before resigning in disgrace in August 1974. Harry S. Truman once tied Bush's current disapproval rating in February 1952 in the midst of the also-unpopular Korean War.

Even Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton at their worst moments -- think Vietnam, Iranian hostages, Iran-contra and the Republican Revolution -- never reached that level of public disapproval, although George H.W. Bush came close shortly before losing reelection in 1992.

All of which is fueling the worst-ever debate that has raged on the Web. A Post-Kaiser Family Foundation-Harvard University survey of political independents last spring found that 48 percent named Bush the worst president of the modern era, followed by Nixon and Carter tied at 13 percent and Clinton at 10 percent.

That's one contest Giuliani and Romney are eager to avoid.

--Peter Baker

Washington Post assistant polling director Jennifer Agiesta takes a look at the highs and lows each president has experienced since 1938.


Presidential Job Approval: The Highs*

Date% saying "approve"Events
George W. BushOct. 9, 200192%One month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, President Bush achieved the highest approval rating of any president since modern polling began.
George H.W. BushMar. 4, 199190%With the ground war in Iraq less than a week old, the public was near-unanimous in its support for the president.
Harry S. TrumanJune 5, 194587%Another president buoyed by wartime success, Truman reached a peak on the eve of V-E Day.
Franklin D. RooseveltJan. 13 and 31, 194284%FDR had widespread support in these Gallup polls, among the first conducted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Lyndon JohnsonMar. 5, 196480%Johnson hit his highest approval rating in early 1964, but did not dip below 70 percent approval until a year later.
John F. KennedyMar. 13, 196280%After Kennedy took office, his popularity grew for more than a year, peaking in early 1962.
Dwight D. EisenhowerDec. 19, 195678%Ike's approval peaked in the post-war good times of 1956, also Elvis Presley's breakthrough year.
Jimmy CarterMar. 21, 197775%Carter earned his highest approval rating two months after taking office. After a late-March approval rating of 72 percent, he never again topped 70 percent.
Ronald ReaganMar. 31 and Apr. 22, 198173%Reagan's approval rating also peaked shortly after taking office, though he nearly reached a high again in mid-1986.
Gerald R. FordAug. 19, 197471%Not long after this, the first measure of Ford's approval rating, he pardoned Nixon and disapproval of his job performance rose 25 percentage points.
Bill ClintonJan. 30, 199869%About a week after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, Clinton's approval rating topped out.
Richard NixonNov. 17, 1969 and Jan. 29, 197367%Nixon notched his highest approval rating twice: in the first year of his term and as ceasefire was declared in Vietnam.


Presidential Job Approval: The Lows

Date% saying "disapprove"Events
Richard NixonAug. 5, 197466%Just days before leaving office, Nixon received the most negative job approval rating recorded thus far.
George W. BushMay 15, 2006, Jan. 19, 2007 and June 21, 200765%Bush's disapproval rating has been above 50 percent for the past two years. No president since Truman has had such sustained negative ratings.
Harry S. TrumanFeb. 14, 195265%Though not statistically different from Nixon's 66 percent, Truman clocked his lowest rating during the Korean War.
George H.W. BushAug. 4, 199264%Three months before losing his bid for re-election, Bush's disapproval rating peaked.
Jimmy CarterJuly 2, 197959%1979 was not Carter's best year, just a few months after being attacked by a killer rabbit,** his disapproval peaked.
Ronald ReaganJan. 22, 198354%Reagan's low point hit two years into his first term, just days before a State of the Union speech outlining his plan for bringing the nation out of economic trouble.
Lyndon JohnsonAug. 12, 196852%A few months after deciding not to seek a second term as president, Johnson's disapproval rating rose above 50 percent for the first time during his tenure.
Bill ClintonJan. 4, 1995, Aug.-Oct. 1994 and Aug. 8, 199351%Disapproval of Clinton's job performance reached a peak three times: as Newt Gingrich's Republican majority took over the House, during the Paula Jones scandal and as the debate surrounding universal health care heated up.
Gerald R. FordApr. 21, 1975 and Nov. 24, 197546%Ford never regained popularity after pardoning Nixon, but even at his lowest, around four in 10 approved of the job he was doing.
Franklin D. RooseveltNov. 12, 193846%FDR's worst rating occurred as the country was still climbing out of economic depression.
Dwight D. EisenhowerApr. 1, 195836%I like Ike indeed! Even at his worst, just one-third of Americans disapproved of the job Eisenhower was doing.
John F. KennedySept. 17, 1963 and Nov. 13, 196330%With approval ratings near sixty percent, Kennedy's worst was never very bad. His worst rating at 30 percent disapproval occurred twice in the last months of his presidency.

*Data on presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter are from Gallup. Data on presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush are from Washington Post-ABC News polling.

**For more on Carter's killer rabbit, click here .

For more polling analysis go to Behind the Numbers.

Posted at 8:05 AM ET on Jul 24, 2007  | Category:  Morning Cheat Sheet
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The writer above questions how the rest of us would have responded to 9/11, as if Bush's response was so successful. The fact is, Bush went into hiding on 9/11, and then, after it was safe, stood on the pile of rubble he could have avoided had he paid attention to the warnings given him by the outgoing Clintonites and made a few demagogic remarks. After that, he invaded Afghanistan, which was pretty much a no-brainer. From then on, his performance has been a complete disaster.

Even his general in Afghanistan, Tommy Franks, will go down in American military history as his generation's George McClellan for failing to advance on Tora Bora and allowing Osama bin Laden to escape. Franks received a Presidential Medal of Freedom for that blunder.

So, practically anyone could have done as good as or better job than Bush in response to 9/11.

Posted by: jheath53 | July 25, 2007 3:01 PM

BUSH SUCCESS

I would like to know what all those who criticize Bush so harshly would have done after the 11 september disaster (suicide bombers very quickly forgotten...) if they had been President of the USA ?
Of course Bush and his advisers did ONE mistake :
to think that Islam and Democracy are compatible :
they have never been compatible and will never be, for Koranic reasons.

But, at least, Bush determinate actions have, willy nilly, installed a kind of a medical cord for a biology epidemic, inside which all the mad unfortunate robo-fanatics of the Madrasas go to blow joyfully themselves instead of rushing to the USA or the rest of the world...
America should be grateful to Bush for this shield, and I am not sure that his successor will protect America better than he did.

For a beginning of a solution to this planet epidemy see Natan's Blog :
NATAN PAPER
http://jerusalem-4thtemple-natan-blogspot.com

Posted by: nnatan | July 25, 2007 10:33 AM

BUSH SUCCESS

I would like to know what all those who criticize Bush so harshly would have done after the 11 september disaster (suicide bombers very quickly forgotten...) if they had been President of the USA ?
Of course Bush and his advisers did ONE mistake :
to think that Islam and Democracy are compatible :
they have never been compatible and will never be, for Koranic reasons.

But, at least, Bush determinate actions have, willy nilly, installed a kind of a medical cord for a biology epidemic, inside which all the mad unfortunate robo-fanatics of the Madrasas go to blow joyfully themselves instead of rushing to the USA or the rest of the world...
America should be grateful to Bush for this shield, and I am not sure that his successor will protect America better than he did.

For a beginning of a solution to this planet epidemy see Natan's Blog :
NATAN PAPER
http://jerusalem-4thtemple-natan-blogspot.com

Posted by: nnatan | July 25, 2007 10:32 AM

With pressure building on all sides, I hope
it won't be but a short time before Pelosi
puts impeachment back "on the table".

Posted by: tensleep42 | July 25, 2007 5:48 AM

It's interesting that despite intense Republican propaganda to the contrary, this chart shows that LBJ was never as unpopular as Ronald Reagan.

Posted by: rjoff | July 24, 2007 2:47 PM

It's interesting that despite Republican propaganda to the intense contrary, LBJ was never as unpopular as Ronald Reagan.

Posted by: rjoff | July 24, 2007 2:41 PM

Bush has always been a disater. His only good point is showing the Amerian people why we should never elect a nonsecular moron into office.

Posted by: glenglish | July 24, 2007 1:06 PM

Bush has always been a disater. His only good point is showing the Amerian people why we should never elect a nonsecular moron into office.

Posted by: glenglish | July 24, 2007 1:05 PM

Bush has always been a disater. His only good point is showing the Amerian people why we should never elect a nonsecular moron into office.

Posted by: glenglish | July 24, 2007 1:05 PM

It's always been my belief that young George's role was to be the only thing he's ever done well in his life -- front-man.

When he ran Arbusto and Harken -- actually ran them -- he was a disaster, and he was saved only by the intervention of wiser (and richer) heads. When he "ran" the Texas Rangers, he was the glad-handing public face with Front-Office Appearance. He did that very well.

He's done essentially the same thing as president. When he really calls the shots -- e.g., "Social Security Reform" -- the results are disastrous. But when he's done as he's been (carefully, indirectly) told, he has succeeded, for the most part.

What we are seeing now, though, is a firewall that is all but burnt through. He's deflected a lot of fire, absorbed some heat, and generally stayed intact for 6 years of an administration whose policies have ranged from the unpopular to the disastrous. But he's almost done. The endgame will be to keep the structure from collapsing completely in the next 18 months.

I imagine they'll succeed. They're motivated, they're ruthless, and they've got enough cover among Congressional Republicans.

Posted by: harrycreetin | July 24, 2007 12:08 PM

It's no wonder that the majority of the American people disapprove of Bush. This isn't a popularity contest. This is a man who is in the highest seat of power and has failed miserably at being a responsible and honest leader. Not only has he failed the American people, but he has failed and insulted the international community. From pure fact, and not an ounce of targeted insult, George W. Bush is a vile human being. He needs to be impeached immediately, and we can only hope that one day he will be indicted for corruption.

Posted by: yhassen | July 24, 2007 11:08 AM

cwh2

Unfortunately it didn't find anything (at all) there either.

Posted by: lexnogard | July 24, 2007 11:06 AM

Hey, George W. Bush*s colonoscopy didn*t find anything cancerous in his colon. Of course, it did find his head.

Posted by: cwh2 | July 24, 2007 10:19 AM

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