New polling indicates that former President Barack Obama has already enjoyed an uptick in popularity since leaving office while former President George W. Bush's favorability has largely been rehabilitated in the years since he retired with dismal approval ratings. Both are currently more popular than President Donald Trump by a wide margin.
On June 19, a Gallup survey found that 63 percent of national adults viewed Obama favorably while 59 percent viewed George W. favorably, placing both retired presidents near the same level of popularity.
In March 2009, the same polling group found that only 35 percent of national adults viewed George W. favorably. In ensuing years, the retired Republican president’s favorability steadily rose until regaining a majority approval in 2014. In August 2015, his approval dipped back to 46 percent when his brother, former GOP Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, mounted an unsuccessful presidential campaign. In July 2016, George W.'s approval stabilized and has since surged to where it is now, at nearly 60 percent.
Breaking down the data, George W.'s current favorability can be largely attributed to his improved popularity among Democrats and Independents. While only 10 percent of Democrats approved of the former president in March 2009, that number has now grown to 41 percent. Independents' favorability toward George W. grew from 29 percent to 56 percent during the same timeframe.
Meanwhile, Obama's favorability has experienced a noticeable bump since he left the White House. In January, 58 percent of respondents viewed him favorably, meaning that his popularity has grown by 5 percentage points within five months.
While the survey found that Obama is more popular than George W., the data also indicated that the retired Democratic president remains more polarizing along partisan lines. While a whopping 95 percent of Democrats view Obama favorably, only 22 percent of Republicans feel the same way. Independents split the difference with 65 percent favorability toward Obama.
Gallup has been measuring favorability toward retired presidents since former President Jimmy Carter's time in office. The current record-holder is late President Ronald Reagan, who captured a 74 percent favorability in January 2001.
The polling trends indicate that Americans view their presidents more fondly in hindsight. Trump, the current White House occupant, is suffering from historically low approval only five months into his term.
Aggregating the last eight national polls released between June 11 and June 18, RealClearPolitics found that Trump currently has an average approval rating of 40 percent and an average disapproval of 54 percent.