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In U.S., Bush Still Bears Brunt of Blame for Economic Woes

In U.S., Bush Still Bears Brunt of Blame for Economic Woes

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are still more likely to blame former President George W. Bush "a great deal" or "a moderate amount" than President Barack Obama for the country's current economic problems. More Americans blamed Bush during Obama's first year as president in 2009; however, since mid-2010, views have been steady at levels similar to today's.


About a third of Americans, 35%, assign a high degree of blame to Bush alone for current economic problems, about double the percentage blaming solely Obama (19%). Another 34% blame both, while 11% say neither is highly to blame.

While Bush has been out of office for four and a half years, the near fiscal collapse that occurred on Wall Street at the tail end of his presidency precipitated sharp declines in consumer attitudes about the economy that only recently recovered to levels approaching what they were previously. Underscoring this, just prior to Obama taking office in December 2008, 60% of Americans described the situation as "the biggest economic crisis the U.S. has faced" in their lifetimes.

The finding that most Americans continue to lay heavy blame on Bush for today's economic problems may help explain why Obama's overall job approval rating has consistently exceeded his approval rating on the economy throughout his presidency, even while the economy has consistently ranked as the nation's top problem. Most recently, 48% in the June 20-24 Gallup survey approved of the overall job Obama is doing as president, similar to the 46% who, in the same poll, said he bears little to no blame for current economic conditions, but higher than the 42% who, in early June, said they approve of Obama's job performance on the economy.

Americans' tendency to blame Bush more than Obama for the economy may also shed light on Obama's historically high job approval premium vs. U.S. satisfaction.


For much of his presidency, George W. Bush's overall job approval rating also exceeded his rating on the economy. However, this can largely be explained by the extended rally in his overall job approval rating following the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks, followed by a decline in his approval rating in 2005 and 2006, largely resulting from public dissatisfaction with the Iraq War.


President Bill Clinton's job approval rating was more closely yoked with his approval rating on the economy after his initial year in office. This was true at least until public satisfaction with the economy rose so high in 1998 that his overall job rating failed to keep up.


Bottom Line

Americans have long been unhappy with the economy, and Obama's approval ratings for handling it have ranged from poor to lackluster. However, weak approval ratings on the economy may not be having as much bearing on his overall job approval rating as they would otherwise because Americans are still largely holding his predecessor responsible for the economy's problems.

The reason Americans still tend to blame Bush more than Obama for the economy simply may be the severity of the 2008 economic crisis coupled with Bush's unpopularity at the time. Alternatively, Obama's personal likeability could be a factor, shielding him from blame. Regardless, these views have persisted for four and a half years, even enduring the 2012 presidential campaign when Republican candidate Mitt Romney attempted to argue that the economy would have recovered by now if not for Obama's policies. As such, it seems likely they will remain intact throughout Obama's presidency, at least as long as consumer attitudes remain negative.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 20-24, 2013, with a random sample of 2,048 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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