US President Barack Obama is struggling to overcome widespread pessimism about the economy and deep frustration with Washington, notching the lowest job-approval ratings of his presidency in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
The results suggest Obama could weigh on fellow Democrats in midterm elections this fall, particularly in the conservative states that will play a large role in deciding whether his party retains its Senate majority.
Obama’s job approval ticked down to 41% in March from 43% in January, marking a new low. Some 54% disapproved of the job he is doing, matching a previous high from December, when the botched rollout of his signature health law played prominently in the news. The latest survey also showed the lowest-ever approval in Journal/NBC polling for Obama’s handling of foreign policy.
The findings come amid dissatisfaction with all elected leaders in Washington and low regard for the Republican Party. Roughly a quarter of those polled view the GOP positively, with 45% harboring negative views, weaker numbers than for the Democratic Party.
While fortunes could change in the months before November, Obama’s power to help his party’s candidates appear limited, said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who directs the Journal/NBC poll with Democrat Fred Yang.
“The president is being taken off the field as a Democratic positive,” McInturff said. “These numbers would suggest that, beyond his behind-the-scenes fundraising, it’s hard to imagine the president on the road and hard to imagine where he would campaign.”
Americans surveyed in the poll said they were less inclined to support a candidate if the person had been endorsed by Obama or was a “solid supporter” of his administration. Approval of Obama is particularly weak in the South and Midwest, regions where Democrats could have a tough time defending Senate seats.
Dissatisfaction with all incumbents remains high. Only 34% in the poll of 1,000 adults, conducted March 5-9, said their member of Congress deserved another term, compared with 55% who said they would rather give someone else a chance. Fifty-four percent said they would vote to replace every member of Congress, including their own representative, if ballots included that option.
Unease over the economy continues to drive these concerns.
Sixty-five percent of those polled said the country is on the wrong track, compared with the 26% who said it was on the right one, a wider spread than in the midterm-election years of 2006 and 2010.
Roughly one-quarter of the respondents think the economy will improve over the next year, while 57% believe the U.S. is still in a recession, despite years of modest economic growth and robust stock-market gains.