(CNSNews.com) - More than 80 percent of history and political science professors in American universities rank President Bush "below average" or a "failure," according to a survey released this week by the Siena Research Institute. However, even the Institute's director acknowledged that "there is a liberal bias to some extent" on college and university campuses.
Fifty-eight percent of the survey's 744 respondents said that if Bush's presidency ended today, he would be a "failure." A quarter of the professors said he would be a "below average president." A mere 2 percent said Bush would be seen as a "great" president.
SRI, a project of Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., has conducted a comprehensive survey of history and political science professors following the first year of every president's first term since 1982. The most recent survey, which came after the first year of Bush's second term, was a special one.
"When we saw President Bush's public opinion ratings plummeting, we decided we'd check with the experts and see how they thought about how he's doing," said Dr. Douglas Lonnstrom, the director of SRI and a statistics professor at Siena College. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that 34 percent of Americans approve of Bush's job performance while 63 percent disapprove.
Lonnstrom cautioned against considering the survey the final analysis of Bush's presidency, telling Cybercast News Service that "it takes about 50 years for a president's position to really kind of solidify where they'll be."
The normal surveys following the initial year of a presidency also ask professors to rank the entire roster of past American presidents. Each survey since 1982 has found Franklin Roosevelt the most popular president among professors, with Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson dominating the rest of the top five.
In the 2002 survey, conducted after 9/11 and before the invasion of Iraq, Bush received high marks and ranked 23rd among his presidential peers. Lonnstrom attributes Bush's decline in popularity to the war in Iraq. "The irony here is Iraq is his biggest weakness, but standing up in the war on terrorists is also his best strength," Lonnstrom said. "Maybe if he had quit after Afghanistan and not invaded Iraq, his standing would be much higher."
The fact that more professors, percentage-wise, disapprove of Bush than does the general population is because of the professors' political views, Lonnstrom said. "The people who go into these fields, in other words become a history professor or political science professor, probably are somewhat more liberal than the population as a whole," he said.
"These are the professors who are teaching today's students who are going to be tomorrow's leaders," Lonnstrom added, "and these are the professors who are going to write the history of this era, so they clearly have an impact on it."
He said there is a possibility that professors will change their minds about Bush "if things were to dramatically turn around." There is "a whole series of events that probably just haven't gone the president's way," Lonnstrom said, speculating that if circumstances turn in the president's favor over the next three years, Bush's place in history would "absolutely" improve.
Less than a quarter of the professors surveyed believe Bush has "a realistic chance of improving his rating." More than third believe he will remain below average or a failure.
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