More than two-thirds of Americans — including half of Republicans — still blame former president George W. Bush for the country's economic ills, according to a new Gallup poll released on Thursday, hours before President Barack Obama was to deliver a high-stakes speech defending his handling of the weak economy.
What one might call the blame gap has narrowed considerably: When Gallup first asked Americans in July 2009 whom they blamed for the poor economy, 80 percent laid a great deal or a moderate amount of blame on Bush, and only 32 percent blamed Obama. The current numbers show 68 percent of the public blames the former president while 52 percent say Obama deserves the blame. (The numbers total more than 100% because the question was not "which one do you blame more," but how much blame each president deserves individually).
The Democratic president has criss-crossed the country in recent months pleading for patience from voters still struggling in the anemic recovery and grappling with stubbornly high unemployment above eight percent. In his speeches, Obama makes a point of blaming Bush and Republicans in general for the 2007-2008 meltdown and warns Mitt Romney's economic program resembles the Bush approach "on steroids."
Among independents, who often play a role in deciding elections, 51 percent assign Obama a great deal or a moderate amount of blame, while 47 percent say he deserves not much or no blame at all. Meanwhile, 67 percent of independents say Bush bears a great deal or a moderate amount of the fault. Only 32 percent exonerate him in whole or in part. (more...)