WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About two-thirds of Americans believe Republican former U.S. President George W. Bush is responsible for the nation’s struggling economy, with a smaller percentage blaming Democratic President Barack Obama, a Gallup poll showed on Thursday.
About 68 percent of the more than 1,000 adults surveyed nationwide said Bush, who left office in January 2009, deserves a “moderate amount” or a “great deal” of the blame for the U.S. economic woes compared to 52 percent who pointed to his successor Obama, the poll found.
The results were released as Obama prepared to give a major economic speech later on Thursday as part of his campaign to win re-election on November 6. He is seeking to convince voters that his economic remedies are working and that his Republican rival Mitt Romney’s policies would trigger an economic crisis.
Poll respondents who identified themselves as Republicans were split, with 49 percent saying Bush deserved a moderate amount or great deal of the blame while 51 percent said Bush deserved not much of the blame or none at all. They expressed even more blame for Obama, however, with 83 percent holding him largely responsible for the state of the economy, the poll found.
Among Democrats, 90 percent blamed Bush for the weak economy and only 19 percent said Obama should carry much of the blame, according to the poll, conducted by telephone June 7 to 10.
“Republicans, in short, are significantly more willing to blame their most recent Republican president than are Democrats willing to blame Obama,” Gallup said.
Independent voters, who could play a critical role in the November election, were more likely to blame Bush (67 percent) than Obama (51 percent). Fewer independents blamed Obama than Gallup’s last results in September, when 60 percent pointed to him, the poll found.
Many Americans are still struggling to recover financially from the nation’s deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and Obama is trying to regroup after recent setbacks, including an anemic May jobs report.
“Americans continue to place more blame for the nation’s economic problems on George W. Bush than on Barack Obama, even though Bush left office more than three years ago,” Gallup said. “... This suggests that Obama’s argument that he is on the right track and needs more time to turn the economy around could fall on receptive ears, particularly those of independents.”
Bush, who served two four-year terms as president, has been unable to shake the blame since Gallup began tracking the economic finger-pointing in 2009, and has seen about 70 percent of those polled holding him responsible since mid-2010.
Critics say Bush’s tax cuts combined with increased spending to fight two wars, among other costs, helped plunge the nation into a deep economic crisis.
The poll had a maximum margin of sampling error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.
Reporting By Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham