I’ve written a good half-dozen posts on this topic over the years but I’ll never stop finding it interesting.

We’re getting there, guys. At the rate perceptions of blame are shifting, I think we’ve got an outside chance of Obama finally passing Bush by, say, summer 2016. Just in time.

Thirty-six percent of those questioned rate the current economic conditions as good. That’s up four percentage points from December and it is the highest level since January 2008, a year before Obama entered the White House. Sixty-four percent continue to say the economy is in poor shape…

Five years into Obama’s presidency, only a third of the public believes that Obama and the Democrats are primarily responsible for the country’s current economic problems.

More Americans continue to blame former President Bush and the Republicans. But the number who say the GOP is more responsible – now at 44% – has dipped below the 50% mark for the first time since Bush left the White House. Fourteen percent blame both parties equally

The last media outlet to poll this was, I believe, ABC/WaPo, which posed the question in December. Their result: Fifty percent blamed Bush versus 38 percent who blamed Obama, virtually the same margin as in the new CNN numbers. What’s significant about CNN, though, is the movement in Dubya’s column. The big takeaway from ABC/WaPo was that, no matter what’s happening in America politically or economically, the blame numbers almost never change. Remember?

bush

Follow this link for data from other pollsters showing similar stasis over time. The numbers don’t move — except now they have, per CNN. Why? I think Bush continues to get the lion’s share of the blame partly for partisan reasons and partly because it was, after all, on his watch that the financial crisis occurred. That’s why “I didn’t make a mess, I inherited one” was persuasive enough to voters to get O reelected two years ago. And because Bush is an ex-president whom Republican partisans no longer need to protect being pitted against a sitting president whom Democrats do need to protect, there’s more of an interest on the left in exculpating O than there is on the right in exculpating Dubya. Combine all that with the fact that Obama typically rates higher in polls than the GOP on questions about whether he understands the problems of “people like you,” i.e. the middle class, and there’s enough sentiment out there to keep Bush firmly in the lead.

But maybe not forever. Again, why have Dubya’s numbers suddenly dipped after running steady for so long? Could be that it’s just the passage of time breaking the link of causation in people’s minds, in which case O may in fact end up taking the lead on this question before he leaves office. Another obvious possibility is that the ObamaCare launch has newly convinced a bunch of undecideds that this boondoggle is going to choke the economy, which means less blame for Dubya for the present miseries. One look at the headlines this week is enough to give any independent pause. But that only raises another question: If ObamaCare’s shifting blame from Bush to Obama, why is the margin between them roughly the same now as it was in the ABC/WaPo poll two months ago? The truth, I think, is that blame isn’t shifting so much as it’s being shared. You’ll see the “both are equally to blame” column start to grow over the next two years, but whether that means Obama will ever overtake Bush, I don’t know. Keep hope alive?

Anyway. In case you’re excited about a Jeb Bush run for president, re-read this post and think hard.