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Is It Good or Bad to Link A Candidate to George W. Bush?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Jeb Bush is counting on an appearance by his brother, former President George W. Bush, to boost his chances in the South Carolina primary. In response, Donald Trump has stepped up his criticism of former President Bush and the Iraq war in particular. Is the last Republican president a blessing or a curse as far as voters are concerned?

Just 34% of Likely Republican Voters consider it a positive description if a candidate is described as being like George W. Bush, and that’s down from 48% in late April of last year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 18% of Republicans view a George W. Bush comparison as a negative, up from 12% in the previous survey, while a plurality (45%) rates it somewhere in between the two.

Among all voters, only 17% feel it’s a positive to describe a candidate as like George W. Bush, while 45% consider it a negative. That compares to 24% and 41% respectively a year ago. Thirty-five percent (35%) now think such a comparison is somewhere in between. (To see survey question wording, click here.) 

Trump may benefit from his criticism of George W. Bush’s presidency because South Carolina Republicans hold an open primary which means any registered voter can participate, regardless of party affiliation. Among unaffiliated voters, just 10% consider a comparison to George W. Bush a positive for a candidate, while 43% view it as a negative. Among Democrats, 74% consider such a comparison a negative one.

Seventy-four percent (74%) of Republicans nationally now think Trump is likely to be the party’s presidential nominee. We’ll see if Trump’s performance in Saturday night’s debate and his criticism of both Bush brothers impacts that perception when Rasmussen Reports updates the weekly Trump Change survey on Friday.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on February 15-16, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

In December 2011 as the United States ended its official combat mission in Iraq, only 29% of voters thought the United States should have become involved in that country.

Last May when Jeb Bush was being pressed about his brother’s decision to invade Iraq, just 22% felt that America’s mission in Iraq will be judged a success in the long run. Sixty-four percent (64%) said a candidate’s position on the Iraq war is important when it comes to how they will vote in the next presidential election.

Most voters under 40 think comparing a candidate to George W. Bush is a negative. Older voters don’t feel as strongly but still are more likely to view such a comparison as a negative rather than a positive.

Thirty-one percent (31%) of conservative voters view a Bush comparison as a positive one, compared to six percent (6%) of moderates and five percent (5%) of liberals.

While Trump is the GOP front-runner nationally, only 33% of Republican voters consider him a conservative. Forty-five percent (45%) view him as a moderate.

Rasmussen Reports’ last national survey of the Republican race – during the week between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary – found Trump still ahead with 32% support among GOP voters, followed by Senator Marco Rubio with 21% and Senator Ted Cruz at 20%. Jeb Bush ran sixth with four percent (4%) of the Republican vote.

Will special interest money buy Bush the nomination that voters seem unwilling to give him?

When Rasmussen Reports asked Americans last year who has been the most influential president in the last 60 years, Ronald Reagan led the field with 32% support. George W. Bush ranked sixth out of nine presidents, the choice of three percent (3%).

When Jeb Bush entered the GOP race last June, 43% of all voters said they were less likely to vote for him because his father and brother both served as president. Fifteen percent (15%) said they were more likely to vote for Bush because of his family’s political stature. Among Republicans, 26% were more likely to vote for another Bush, while 30% were less likely to do so.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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