Good news, bad news in NBC/WSJ poll

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS IN NBC/WSJ POLL…. Nearly all recent national polling shows pretty much identical results — a pessimistic public in a sour mood, unhappy with the leaders, parties, and personalities in Washington. To that extent, the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises.

But there were a few tidbits of note, particularly as the poll relates to the midterm elections.

President Obama’s overall approval rating stands at 47%, up a little from the last poll, but his handling of the economy and the war in Afghanistan have lost public support. The public now supports the way he’s dealt with the BP oil spill disaster, a turnaround from June, and overall, seven in 10 believe Obama has met or exceeded their expectations as president.

The rest of Washington fares much worse.

A combined 60 percent say that this year’s Congress is either below average or one of the worst in history — the highest percentage in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll… In addition, a whopping 72 percent disapprove of Congress’ job.

The political parties don’t fare much better. Just 33 percent have a positive view of the Democratic Party, versus 44 percent who have a negative view.

As for the Republican Party, only 24 percent see it positively — the GOP’s lowest-ever rating in the poll — while 46 percent see it negatively. [emphasis added]

I continue to see this as one of the year’s more important trends. As deeply unhappy as Americans are with the status quo, Republicans have not yet improved their public reputation or standing. In 1994 and 2006 — the last two cycles in which the majority party lost both the House and Senate in the same cycle — the minority party gained favor. This year, just three months before Election Day, the Republican Party’s favorable rating is still at an all-time low.

In other words, the electorate would have to replace an unpopular party with an even more unpopular party. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but it’s hardly a recipe for success, and it certainly doesn’t constitute a popular mandate.

But before Democrats feel too good about the results, it’s also worth noting the parties’ standing on various issues. The public trusts Dems by fairly wide margins on protecting the environment, dealing with global warming, handling energy policy, providing oversight on Wall Street, dealing with natural disasters, dealing with health care, dealing with Social Security, and getting the country out of a recession.

Republicans, however, now enjoy an edge on dealing with the economy, dealing with immigration, dealing with taxes, dealing with Afghanistan, reducing the deficit, promoting values, controlling government spending, and combating terrorism.

In other words, the GOP leads on some of the issues most likely to drive the campaign cycle.

In terms of the generic ballot, the poll shows Democrats with a one-point lead, a small turnaround over the GOP’s two-point lead since June, but that enthusiasm gap should remain a key point of concern for the majority — “among those expressing a high interest in voting in November, the GOP’s edge increases to 11 points, 50-39 percent.”

That enthusiasm gap was much larger in June, but it’s still a signal about the need for Democrats to generate some excitement among its rank and file.