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NBC/WSJ poll: Obama benefits from growing economic optimism

The latest NBC/WSJ poll found Americans are becoming more optimistic about the state of the economy. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

 

Americans are growing more optimistic about the state of the economy and direction of the country, according to a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll out Wednesday evening, and President Obama is receiving better grades on his handling of the economy and job as a result.

More people said they believe the economy will get better (37 percent) in the next year rather than worse (17 percent). That’s the highest level in more than a year and a seven-point jump over last month. It also represents a reversal from October, when 32 percent of Americans said they expected the economy to get worse, versus 21 percent who expected improvement.

READ partial results of the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll

"The calendar says it’s the dead of winter, but for President Obama, these results must feel like the start of spring," said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

The number of people who said the country is headed in the right direction, 30 percent, remains far lower than the 61 percent of U.S. adults who think it is off on the wrong track.

But the figures represent a change in trajectory; the number of Americans who said the country is on the right track is up eight points from last month, and 13 points from October.

And for the first time in six months, more people approve of the job the president is doing (48 percent) than disapprove (46 percent).

“The psychology about the economic conditions has switched,” Hart said. “The old saying is a rising tide lifts all boats then clearly, this economic optimism has clearly lifted Obama's ratings."

But Congress sees no boost from any emerging sense of optimism. Instead, its 13 percent approval rating remains near historic lows, while 80 percent disapprove of the way lawmakers are doing their job. That’s the same as it was the last time the question was asked in August.

The record low in the history of the poll was 12 percent, set in October 2008, right before that year’s elections.

“The president still has a very long road ahead of him,” Hart said, “but for the first time in a long time, he finds that he has the wind at his back. For the Congress, they are going into a headwind, and there is a need to prove themselves.”

The poll comes on the heels of three straight months of positive economic data, including an unemployment rate that has dropped below 9 percent for the first time in more than two years and job growth that has exceeded expectations.

It serves as a warning to Republican running for president, said McInturff, the Republican pollster.

“Republicans had better bring their A-game to the election in November,” he said, “as today's results are a reminder -- as attitudes about the economy improve, so does President Obama's standing.”