Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Poll: 35% Say Obama Has Handled Foreign Policy Better Than George W. Bush; Americans Who Were 20-Somethings in 2003 More Critical of Bush

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Despite promises to improve America's foreign policy handling, only 35 percent of Americans think President Obama has done a better job than his predecessor George W. Bush, according to the latest Reason-Rupe poll. Another 28 percent say Obama has done no better nor worse than President Bush, and 33 percent say he's done an even worse job.

One age group stands out in their evaluation comparing Obama to Bush—and it's not today's college-age kids. Americans who were between the ages of 18-29 in 2003 when President Bush led the country into war in Iraq are the most likely group (48%) to say President Obama has done a better job handling foreign policy than Bush. In contrast, only a third or less of virtually every other age group agree—even today's youngest cohort who hadn't yet turned 18 in 2003.

Research shows that young adults are most politically impressionable in early adulthood, particularly the ages of 18-29. Americans who were in this age group in 2003 and witnessed the national debate and invasion of Iraq in their formative years continue to be much more likely to favor President Obama's approach to foreign affairs compared to his predecessor.

Increased support for Obama's foreign policy is not simply a product of youth. Today's very youngest adult cohort, those who were under 18 in 2003, are no more likely than older age groups to view Obama's foreign policy as an improvement. Instead, those who were 18-29 in 2003 (and now between the ages of 30 and 40) remain an outlier in their preference for Obama over Bush.

These data suggest Americans born between the mid 70s and 80s may carry with them into the future distinctive foreign policy views, uniquely shaped by the rhetoric and actions of President George W. Bush.

The Reason-Rupe national telephone poll, executed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, conducted live interviews with 1004 adults on cell phones (503) and landlines (501) October 1-6, 2014. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.8%. Full poll results can be found here including poll toplines (pdf)  and crosstabs (xls).