Americans remain unhappy with how President Obama is handling the economy, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Fifty-two percent disapprove of his handling of the economy and 45 percent approve, virtually the same ratings he has received all year.
The survey also finds that voters are starting to think more highly of the Republican party on several issues. The GOP is now rated higher than the Democrats on handling the economy, 33 percent to 29 percent, and foreign policy, 33 to 26. But the GOP still has a long way to go to catch the Democrats in general terms. Overall, only 28 percent of Americans hold positive views of the Republicans, while 40 percent see the Democrats positively.
Asked about one of the major issues confronting Congress this fall, 44 percent say Congress should not raise the debt ceiling; 22 percent say the legislators should raise the debt ceiling, and 33 percent don't know enough to have an opinion.
Pessimism is common. Only 27 percent of Americans think the economy will improve in the next year, the lowest since July 2012. Twenty-four percent say the economy will get worse, and 48 percent say it will stay about the same.
Sixty-two percent say the country is on the wrong track, and only 30 percent say it's headed in the right direction, which is roughly the same level of pessimism that has persisted throughout 2013.
The poll found that Obama's job-approval rating is a mediocre 45 percent, with 50 percent disapproval – little changed for the past three months. The numbers are similar to Obama's rating for his handing of the economy.
Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who conducted the survey with Democratic pollsters Peter Hart and Fred Yang, told me, "The president has reduced standing as he heads into the showdowns on the budget and other issues" this fall. This could "embolden" his congressional opposition to fight him more aggressively on issues ranging from the debt ceiling to budget priorities, McInturff said.
Hart told the Journal that Obama faces a "very bumpy road" this fall because he has been lurching from one crisis to another.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.