People have a tendency to remember past experiences more positively than they actually felt about them at the time they occurred. It’s a psychological phenomenon sometimes referred to as “rosy retrospection.”
Maybe that's why, according to a recent Economist/YouGov poll, Democrats have a significantly rosier retrospective opinion of former President George W. Bush than they had during the eight years he was in office.
According to the poll, 51 percent of respondents who identified as Democrats now view Bush favorably, compared to 42 percent who view him unfavorably.
Here’s the breakdown:
- Very favorable: 14 percent
- Somewhat favorable: 37 percent
- Somewhat unfavorable: 29 percent
- Very unfavorable: 13 percent
- Don’t know: 7 percent
The poll, taken Oct. 22-24 and surveying 1,500 U.S. adults, showed that 76 percent of Republicans hold a favorable opinion of Bush.
Clearly, much has changed since 2006, when a University of Ohio-Scripps Howard poll showed half of Democrats believed it to be very likely or somewhat likely that “Bush knew” about 9/11 ahead of time, and either assisted in the attacks or intentionally allowed them because the federal government wanted to go to war in the Middle East.
Why do they like him now?
It’s possible this wave of liberal love for Bush is a result of his speech last week at a conference in New York, which was widely interpreted as a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s presidency even though Bush never mentioned Trump’s name.
“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children,” Bush said in the speech.
While the positive feedback from Democrats may be somewhat surprising, there is a long history of presidents' approval ratings rising significantly after they leave office.