The most recent CBS/NYT poll provides some evidence for this conclusion. The survey conducted an interesting experiment. Half the sample was asked the following question:
I'd like you to compare the way things are going in the United States today to the way they were going six years ago. Generally, would you say things are going better today, worse today, or about the same as they were going six years ago?
The other half was asked a slightly different question:
I'd like you to compare the way things are going in the United States today to the way they were going six years ago before George W. Bush became president. Generally, would you say things are going better today, worse today, or about the same as they were going before George W. Bush became president?
The latter question specifically mentiions President Bush, thus triggering attitudes towards him among respondents. The two questions elicted different responses
Question 1: No Bush Reference
|About the same||19||24||14||20|
Question 2: Bush Reference
|About the same||16||35||3||17|
Overall, responses to the question that mentioned Bush were slightly more negative, but this difference is probably not statistically significant. Among Republicans, however, the mention of Bush elicited led to fewer responses claiming that conditions are worse now than six years ago (42 versus 27 percent) and more claiming that they are about the same (24 to 35). Among Democrats, mentioning Bush led to a decline in responses saying that conditions are better (10 versus 2 percent) or about the same (14 to 3 percent), and an increase in those saying conditions are worse (75 to 94 percent). Among independents, there doesn't seem to be a significant difference in the responses to the two questions.
The difference in the responses to these questions by Democrats and Republicans shows how the very mention of Bush's name influences assessments of the last six years. Mentioning Bush makes Republicans more positive and Democrats more negative. Despite his desire to be "a uniter, not a divider," Bush seems to be a uniquely divisive president.