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When poll #s don't tell whole story

From NBC's Mark Murray
In our First Thoughts section, we've described the political focus group that one of us attended. Here's a more complete story on MSNBC.com on the observations from it.

Video: Atlantic Media's Ron Brownstein talks about the public's support of health care reform and President Barack Obama according to the latest NBC News/WSJ poll.

TOWSON, Md. - The past wave of public polling, including Wednesday's NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, hasn't been terrific news for the Obama White House.

The president's job-approval numbers have declined, although they remain above 50 percent. His standing on health care has dropped. And Republicans now find themselves, at least in the NBC/Journal survey, with an advantage over Democrats in which party would do a better job reducing the deficit — the first time the GOP has led on this question in 12 years.

But according to Peter D. Hart, the pollster who conducts the NBC/Journal survey with Republican Bill McInturff, poll numbers don't always tell the entire story.

That's why Hart held a focus group Wednesday in the Baltimore area with 12 self-described independents to evaluate the first six months of Obama's presidency.

Seven of these independents voted for Obama in last November's presidential contest, four voted for Republican John McCain and one voted for Ralph Nader. All the participants were white men and women, except for one African-American man.

While a few of them expressed negative opinions about Obama — saying they were "worried" or "afraid" — those who voted for him remained mostly supportive. And even half of the McCain voters said they were pulling for the president.