64% of Americans Say President Obama's Handling of Foreign Policy Is Worse or the Same as George W. Bush's


As the country debates launching airstrikes on Syria, 64 percent of Americans, including 68 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats, say President Barack Obama's handling of foreign policy has been "worse" or the "same" as former President George W. Bush's handling of foreign policy.

Worse Than Bush

Thirty-two percent of Americans, including 55 percent of Republicans, 33 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats, feel President Obama is handling foreign policy worse than former President Bush did. 

Same as Bush

Twenty-nine percent of Democrats, 34 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of independents believe President Obama is handling foreign policy the same as President Bush did.

Better Than Bush

Nearly one-third of Americans, 32 percent, think President Obama is handling foreign policy better than former President Bush did, including 56 percent of Democrats, 27 percent of independents, and 8 percent of Republicans. Non-whites are also considerably more likely (45 percent) than non-whites (26 percent) to say Obama is an improvement over Bush when it comes to foreign policy.

Last week at the G-20 summit, President Obamacontended it wasn't his, but the nation's, credibility on the line, "My credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line. And America and Congress's credibility is on the line."

However, recent polls show it is becoming clear that Obama's push for military action in Syria is costing him credibility with the American public.

While Obama has enjoyed majority approval for his handling of foreign policy for most of his presidency,Reason-Rupe finds in recent weeks disapproval of his foreign policy has shot up to nearly 6 in 10 Americans. Today, only 35 percent approve of the president's handling of foreign policy. 


Nationwide telephone poll conducted September 4-8 2013 interviewed 1013 adults on both mobile (509) and landline (504) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results found here. Full methodology can be found here.

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  1. “64% of Americans Say President Obama’s Handling of Foreign Policy Is Worse or the Same as George W. Bush’s”

    In a related poll, 36% of Americans say anything associated with President Obama is inherently superior to than anything associated with George W. Bush–because Barack Obama is very, very precious.

  2. This is a tough one.

    Because Obama and his administration are so incompetent and misdirected, they failed to build a coalition against Assad at home or abroad. Bush may well have succeeded at it if he set his mind to it. Pretty horrible choice.

  3. Basically, one-third of people say better, one-third say worse, and one-third say same. So an equally true way of spinning this would be “Two-thirds of Americans say President Obama’s handling of Foreign Policy is the Same or Better than George W. Bush’s.”

    1. God that’s a depressing way to look at it.

      Thanks a lot.

      1. Either way, it’s a low bar. Thinking one is/was better than the other doesn’t mean you think either one is/was good

        1. And yet that kind of question is a staple of opinion polls. I with they had asked people to rate each president on a scale of 1-10 so we could get an absolute value.

    2. I don’t think the middle third is saying what you’re saying they’re saying.

      If you’re saying that Obama’s foreign policy is the same or worse, that’s expressing disapproval.

      All the people who are saying Obama’s foreign policy is the same [or better] than George W. Bush’s seem to have broken for the “Obama’s Better than Bush” camp.

      1. In other words, if you broke it down into four groups, Better than Bush; Better or the Same; Worse or the Same; Worse…

        I think those who either say worse or the same or worse would still add up to about 64%.

        1. The problem is that the poll had three options: “Better,” “Same,” “Worse.”

          Look at the results. There are about a third for each option. I don’t know what a 4 option poll would say, since they didn’t ask that.

      2. If you’re saying that Obama’s foreign policy is the same or worse, that’s expressing disapproval.

        Look at the second graph, which presents the “Worse,” “Same,” and “Better” as three options instead of lumping the first two together. That’s the question that they actually asked, as shown in the linked poll.

        1. What I’m trying to say is that I think people who are saying that Obama’s is the same as Bush’s–are actually expressing disapproval.

          It’s like polling “undecideds” in the run up to Obama’s reelection. Obama has been president for four years. If after four years, the undecideds are still not sure whether they can hold their noses tight enough to pull the lever for Obama, then the “undecided” probably shouldn’t be counted as being about half in his favor…

          Likewise with being compared to Bush. When people out there right now think of a president with an excellent foreign policy, how many many of them think of Bush? What I’m trying to say is that being compared to Bush on foreign policy, in most people’s minds, is an insult.

          In other words, how many people out there love Barack Obama’s foreign policy–because it’s just like Bush’s? I think that number is very small. I think it’s more likely that 90% of those people who are comparing Obama’s foreign policy with Bush’s think that Bush’s foreign policy was a negative thing.

  4. “Non-whites are also considerably more likely (45 percent) than non-whites (26 percent) to say Obama is an improvement over Bush when it comes to foreign policy.”

    did I read that right?

    1. Yeah, Welcome to California or Massachusetts?

  5. Glen Reynolds notes, “what’s striking ? Bush’s image is filtered through a decade of nonstop media negativity; Obama’s through nearly a decade of nonstop media promotion. And yet Obama only scores “Same or Worse.”

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