Bush now more popular than Obama

Story highlights

President Barack Obama's job approval numbers are sinking, according to a new CNN/ORC poll

Overall, 47% say things in the country are going well, 52% that they're going badly

Washington CNN  — 

President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers are sinking as American attitudes about the nation’s progress have taken a turn for the worse, according to a new CNN/ORC poll.

A majority of the public once again say things in the U.S. are going pretty badly and disapproval of Obama’s job performance has climbed back above 50% as well.

In fact, former President George W. Bush is more popular than Obama.

READ: The complete CNN/ORC poll

According to the poll, 52% of adults had a favorable impression of George W. Bush, 43% unfavorable. When Bush left office in 2009, only about one-third of Americans said they had a positive opinion of him. This new poll presents a notable shift as Bush’s overall favorability has remained well below 50% for much of his time as a presidential alum.

Overall, 47% say things in the country are going well, 52% that they’re going badly. That’s a reversal from March, when 53% said things were going well, the highest share to say so during Obama’s presidency. The shift comes across partisan and demographic lines, with no one group’s opinions driving the overall change.

Obama’s approval rating has suffered a similar blow.

While it’s dropped since April, going from a near-even 48% approve to 47% disapprove split to a negative-tilting 52% disapprove to 45% approve, the rising disapproval ratings come across party lines, from both men and women, from whites and non-whites.

And what’s on Americans’ minds?

The economy continues to be the public’s top issue, with 22% choosing it as the most important out of the eight that were tested. Fewer consider it the top issue now than did so last fall, however, when 30% called it the top problem, and it’s well off the mark from its dominant position as the top issue throughout the last few election cycles.

RELATED: Americans warm to George W. Bush

Yet no other single issue has grabbed the spotlight as the economy has faded.

Education ranks second, 17% call that their top concern, followed by terrorism at 13%, health care at 12% and the federal budget deficit at 10%. Fewer still call illegal immigration (8%), the situation in Iraq and Syria (7%) or energy and environmental policies (6%) the most important issue facing the U.S.

Some of that dispersion is due to differing issue priorities by party.

Democrats split their issue priorities broadly, 19% say the economy, 18% each name health care and education, and about 1-in-8 each cite terrorism (12%) and energy and environmental policies (11%). For Republicans, a different set of issues rises to the top, 20% name the economy, 17% terrorism, 12% each the federal budget deficit and the situation in Iraq and Syria and 10% each health care and illegal immigration. Just 8% of Republicans call education the top priority.

There’s also an age divide on issue priorities. Younger adults are least apt to consider the economy the top problem. Just 16% of those under age 35 say the economy is the most pressing issue, about twice as many (33%) cite education. Among those age 65 or older, however, terrorism and the economy are about equal as top threats, 21% say it’s terrorism, 20% the economy. For those between ages 35 and 64, however, the economy remains tops.

One glimmer of positivity remains in the poll despite the overall turn toward pessimism.

RELATED: Are post-9/11 politics shifting?

Compared with a year ago, more now say the nation’s economy is recovering or already recovered. Half (50%) say so in the new poll, up from 43% last year at this time. Still, nearly one-quarter (23%) feel the economy is still in a downturn and getting worse.

Despite the public’s focus on the economy, it may not be the issue driving down Obama’s approval ratings. While the public’s assessment of his handling of the economy is about the same as it was in February, he’s lost ground on his handling of ISIS (down 8 points since February).

Obama’s best mark on issues comes for his handling of race relations: 50% say they approve, 47% disapprove, while he tallies his worst marks on issues where his partisans are most apt to disapprove.

For example, his 63% disapproval rating on handling ISIS includes disapproval from 34% of Democrats, and on government surveillance of U.S. citizens, 67% disapprove overall including 44% of Democrats.

Asked to rate their feelings about living former presidents, Americans pick Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush as the most popular of the bunch, with 64% holding a favorable view of each. Jimmy Carter notches a 56% favorability rating and George W. Bush cracks majority favorability with 52%. That’s his most positive rating since April 2005. His father’s favorability ratings have also climbed in the last year, from 58% last June to 64% now. Clinton and Carter have held steady since last year.

Americans view the sitting president less positively than all of his predecessors. The public is split 49% favorable to 49% unfavorable on Obama, a bit worse than his 52% favorable to 46% unfavorable mark in March, but similar to other reads on his favorability in CNN/ORC polling throughout the last year.

The President’s party continues to be more positively viewed than the GOP, according to the poll. Overall, 47% have a positive impression of the Democrats, 41% of the Republicans.

The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone May 29-31 among a random national sample of 1,025 adults.