Americans continue to place more blame for the nation's economic problems on George W. Bush than on Barack Obama, even though Bush left office more than three years ago. The relative economic blame given to Bush versus Obama today is virtually the same as it was last September.
Gallup first asked this "blame assessment" question in July 2009, six months after Obama became president. At that point, 80% of Americans gave Bush a great deal or a moderate amount of blame, compared with 32% who ascribed the same level of blame for the bad economy to Obama. The percentage blaming Bush dropped to about 70% in August 2010, and has stayed roughly in that range since. Meanwhile, about half of Americans have blamed Obama since March 2010, with little substantive change from then to the present.
The relative amount of blame Americans give to Obama and to Bush has largely stabilized over the last two years. It remains to be seen whether Americans are open to further discussion of those issues in the months remaining before the Nov. 6 election, or whether their minds are made up.
Even half of Republicans say Bush deserves a "great deal or moderate amount" of the blame. Democrats obviously blame Bush in large numbers (90%), but the most important number comes from Independents -- who include swing voters. "Independents are substantially more likely to blame Bush (67%) than to blame Obama (51%) for the nation's economic problems, a finding that no doubt provides some comfort to the Obama re-election campaign," Gallup reports. "And fewer independents blame Obama now than did so last September (60%)."
Yet there are still some on the left who argue that Obama shouldn't run against Bush's economic failure.
This is profoundly foolish.
Gallup isn't the only organization polling Bush in contrast with Obama. CNN recently ran a study that found that people were more likely to take a brighter view of their current economic situation if they were reminded of Dubya.
"Don’t be surprised if the Obama campaign mentions the name of George W. Bush at every opportunity, and don’t be surprised if that strategy works," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. "And the mention of Bush’s name appears to prompt at least a few people to take a more positive view of their current financial situation." He has the lowest approval rating of any living ex-president. It's easy to see why conservatives wouldn't want Obama to talk about Bush, but it's hard to see why lefties would feel the same way.
Basically, it's the old Reagan question; "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" In answer to that question, the numbers changed in the CNN poll when Bush is mentioned.
"When asked in the survey whether they are better or worse off than they were four years ago, Americans are split, 44% to 43%," CNN said. "But when asked whether they are better or worse off than they were four years ago 'when Bush was president,' a small gap opens - 47% say they are better off compared to 41% who say they are worse off." We can argue whether six points constitutes a "small gap" or not, but if the presidential race is going to be a close as it's expected to be, it's large enough to drive a truck through.
I suppose the reasoning is that if Obama runs against Bush's disaster, he'll be seen as a crybaby making excuses. But the facts are what the facts are; it is Bush's fault and Americans do agree with that assessment. If you blame Bush, you're just reflecting people's own thoughts back at them -- it's hard to see how people would view that negatively.
And, for chrissakes, Romney is Bush. He'd deregulate Wall Street and continue on with ever-failing trickle down economics. He's signed on with the Ryan Plan, which is really just Bush economic policies rewrapped -- including privatizing Medicare. How do you point out that all this stuff didn't work so well the last time if you don't mention George W. Bush?
This is Bush's economy. Make Republicans own it.