A new poll shows former President George W. Bush’s approval rating rising, four years after he left office and as he returns to the public spotlight for the opening of his presidential library.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Tuesday shows 47 percent approve of Bush, with 50 percent disapproving. When Bush left office in 2009 after his second term, his approval rating was 33 percent positive to 66 percent negative, one of the lowest figures among presidents.
Among Republicans, Bush holds a strong 84-15 positive split. With Democrats, 25 percent approve of the former president’s performance to 73 percent disapproval. Forty-five percent of independents approve of Bush to 51 percent disapproving.
Among registered voters, the former president’s approval rating of 47 is equal to that of Obama’s in the last Post-ABC poll.
The decision to invade Iraq remains Bush’s most contentious issue, with a majority disapproving of his handling of that war. Fifty-seven percent disapprove of the decision to go to war, down from 65 percent in the spring of 2008.
Bush’s economic approval numbers have also improved with 43 percent approving of his handling of the economy to 53 percent disapproving. When he left office only 24 percent approved of Bush on the economy.
The poll’s findings come as Bush prepares to open his presidential library on Thursday, the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. He will be joined by President Obama and former Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Carter.
In an interview published Monday in USA Today, Bush said he felt “no need to defend" himself over the high-profile decisions that marked his term, saying he would leave those appraisals to history.
“There's no need to defend myself,” Bush said. “I did what I did and ultimately history will judge.”
Bush said the library would be a place to “lay out the facts” behind his key policy decisions and would let visitors make their own judgments about the Iraq war, the financial crisis and the response to Hurricane Katrina.
The president has kept a low profile since leaving office, staying out of the media spotlight.
“I'm happy to be out of the limelight. I truly am,” Bush said. “My life is obviously much simpler than it was in the past, but in many ways, the simplicity creates contentment.”
Bush’s brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has said he would consider a run for the 2016 GOP presidential bid and is seen as a prime contender for the nomination.