As he begins his final year in office, President Bush’s standing with the public continues to worsen. While his overall job approval ratings are holding steady, the balance of opinion is roughly two-to-one negative (31% approve, 59% disapprove). And the number of Americans – including many within the president’s own party – who see the failures of his administration outweighing the accomplishments continues to rise, and a record high number say this year’s State of the Union address is less important than in past years.
A 59% majority of Americans believe that, in the long run, the failures of the Bush administration will outweigh the accomplishments, up from 53% a year ago. Half as many (28%) say Bush’s accomplishments will outweigh his failures. By comparison, in January 2004 – at the outset of Bush’s re-election campaign – more saw the administrations accomplishments carrying more weight (49%) than its failures (36%).
This dour view of the Bush presidency stands in contrast to public sentiment at the same point in Bill Clinton’s presidency. In January of 2000, 51% felt the Clinton administrations main legacy would be its accomplishments, while just 37% said the failures would stand out.
At the time, a quarter of Republicans felt that Clinton’s legacy would be positive, compared with just 9% of Democrats who say the same about Bush today. And fewer Republicans today (62%) see Bush’s accomplishments standing out compared with Democrats in 2000 (75%). Yet the most striking difference in views of the two presidents’ legacies is among independents. In January 2000, a majority of independents (53%) said that Clinton’s legacy would be marked by his administration’s accomplishments.
Today, by a 64% to 23% margin, most independents say Bush’s legacy will be marked by his administration’s failures.