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Bush is back -- but not his popularity

Former President George W. Bush has returned to the news -- in both big and small ways.

He's a brand-new grandfather after his daughter Jenna gave birth to a baby girl.

He recently gave a wide-ranging interview to the Dallas Morning News, in which he reflected on his two terms in the White House. “Much of my presidency was defined by things that you didn’t necessarily want to have happen,” he said, citing the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

More controversially, a new nonpartisan report concludes that, in the aftermath of 9/11, the United States practiced torture and that "the nation's highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it," the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

And next week, he'll make a public appearance -- along with the other living presidents, past and present -- at the dedication of his presidential library in Dallas, Texas on April 25.

But as Bush is back, the same can't be said of his overall popularity.

According to the most recent NBC/WSJ poll, conducted April 5-8, 35 percent of Americans view him favorably, versus 44 percent who view him negatively.

Those numbers are virtually unchanged from the five other NBC/WSJ polls that have measured Bush since the summer of 2010, although they're an improvement from when he left office (31 percent fav/58 percent unfav).

Indeed, out of the six public figures the current NBC/WSJ poll measured -- including President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and New York City Michael Bloomberg -- Bush had the worst net fav/unfav score.

Yet buried inside Bush's poll numbers is a striking finding: He fares well among the demographic groups that have favored Republicans, including defeated 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and he performs poorly among the demographic groups with whom Republicans have struggled.

The subgroups that have a net-positive view of Bush are Republicans (65 percent favorable/14 percent unfavorable), conservatives (60 percent/19 percent), seniors (48 percent/31 percent), rural Americans (43 percent/35 percent), Southerners (43 percent/37 percent), and whites (40 percent/39 percent).

But he is deeply unpopular among most other subgroups, including the biggest parts of Obama’s coalition -- 18-34 year olds (26 percent/46 percent), African Americans (19 percent/64 percent), and Latinos (27 percent/44 percent). In fact, Bush’s worst age group is the 18 to 34 year old, and his best are seniors.

He also has a net-negative with the swing demographic groups: suburban residents (37 percent/41 percent) and independents (30 percent/45 percent).

And while Bush has a net-positive rating in the South, he’s negative everywhere else: Northeast (30 percent/53 percent), Midwest (32 percent/46 percent), and West (32 percent/42 percent).

In other words, if you want more evidence of the Republican Party’s demographic strengths -- and demographic weaknesses -- look no further than these poll numbers.