Americans Take Parting Shots at Bush
By Dan Eggen
It was bad enough for President Bush to have shoes tossed at his head during his farewell journey to Baghdad. Now comes a new poll in which Americans call Bush all sorts of names -- some of them a lot worse than "dog."
In a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, respondents were asked to volunteer their assessments of how Bush would be remembered after he leaves office. The most frequent response, from 56 people, was "incompetent," followed by "idiot," "arrogant," "ignorant," "stupid," and so on. Nine people volunteered a three-letter synonym for donkey.
There were some kinder sentiments as well, including "honest," "honorable," and "dedicated." The number of participants who called Bush a "liar" also dropped from 18 in 2004 to just 4 this time around.
Overall, though, the Pew poll underscored the depth of public disdain for Bush, who now ranks as the most consistently unpopular president since the advent of modern political polling. He has not had the approval of a majority of Americans since the beginning of his second term, and has hovered in the 20s in most approval rankings for more than a year. An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll last week found that eight out of 10 Americans would not miss him once he's gone.
"The public's verdict on the Bush presidency is overwhelmingly negative," the Pew researchers write in a summary of their findings. "Just 11% said Bush will be remembered as an oustanding or above average president -- by far the lowest positive end-of-term rating for any of the past four presidents." In 2000, by comparison, the recently-impeached Bill Clinton scored 44 percent on the same measure. (Ronald Reagan got 59 percent, while Bush's father received 36 percent.)
The Pew survey also found that 64 percent believe Bush will be remembered mostly for his failures, and 34 percent said he will go down in history as a poor president.
The new polling comes as Bush has embarked on a legacy campaign, attempting to burnish his reputation by claiming success in preventing terrorist attacks, turning around the security situation in Iraq and other accomplishments. Although it's too soon to tell if the campaign is working, most presidents have enjoyed a surge in popularity during their last months in office. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this week showed 30 percent of Americans now approve of how Bush is doing his job, up from his low of 23 percent in early October.
For his part, Bush has repeatedly claimed to be unbothered by his low popularity, and has pointed to his willingness to endure opposition as a strength. "The thing that's important for me is to get home and look in the mirror and say, 'I did not compromise my principles,'" Bush said in one recent interview. "And I didn't."
The Pew survey was conducted Dec. 3-7 among a sample of 1,489 adults using both landline and cellphones. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.
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