A Pew poll examined the popularity of the two former presidents who share last names with current candidates and delivered more bad news for Republicans. Bill Clinton’s popularity remains high while more people have negative than a positive opinion of George W. Bush.
According to Pew:
Of the two most recent past presidents, Bill Clinton remains a more popular figure than George W. Bush. Today, 58% of Americans view Clinton favorably, while 38% have an unfavorable opinion. George W. Bush, by contrast, is viewed more negatively than positively (44% favorable, 52% unfavorable).
In particular, Clinton is now viewed far less favorably by Republicans and Republican leaners than he was in September 2012 (just 28% view him favorably today, down from 43%). And while about eight-in-ten (81%) Democrats and Democratic leaners view the former Democratic president favorably today, his ratings among Democrats were slightly better (88% favorable) in September 2012. George W. Bush’s ratings have been relatively stable since early 2011. Currently, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Republicans and Republican leaners, along with just 23% of Democrats and Democratic leaners have positive opinions of the former GOP president.
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush won’t be on the ballot next year, but the poll illustrates the value of a last name. If we consider the last name to be a political brand, the Clinton brand is much more popular than the Bush brand. The Bush name has been nothing but a hindrance for Jeb Bush. His recent stumbles over simple questions about the Iraq war are an example of the kind minefield that Bush is going to have to successfully navigate to win the White House.
The decline in Bill Clinton’s approval rating with Republicans can be attributed to the growing rightward partisanship in the Republican Party. The GOP is becoming more insular. Anything or anyone who is a Democrat is likely to be rejected
Bill Clinton should be a strong surrogate for his wife during the 2016 race while an appearance by George W. Bush could doom his brother’s candidacy with the general electorate. Republicans have been claiming for years that eventually the public would appreciate W. It hasn’t happened.
The memories of Bush’s lies about the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, and the Great Recession remain strong with most Americans. Jeb Bush is going to be carrying around his W. baggage for the entire campaign. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated that she is her own candidate while Jeb Bush continues to struggle with his family name.
A famous last name won’t get a candidate elected, but this poll suggests that negative memories can slow a candidate down.