But just 38 percent say they favor Obama taking executive action without receiving approval from Congress. Whites disapprove by 55 percent to 34 percent. Even Latinos are split on executive action, with 43 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed. African-Americans favor executive action by Obama by a 65 percent to 12 percent margin.
Other results of the poll reflected stability in American political attitudes. The survey showed that just 25 percent of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction, matching the proportion from the NBC/WSJ survey in June.
Obama's job approval rating stood at 44 percent, slightly up from 41 percent five months ago. A 56 percent majority agreed with the statement that "The economic and political systems in the country are stacked against people like me"—a finding mirroring that from the NBC/WSJ April poll.
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"While this wave election has changed the composition of Congress and added Republican governors, it has not changed the nation's psyche or their expectations," said Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster who conducted the survey with Republican counterpart Bill McInturff. "It is almost like the election never happened."
Perhaps surprisingly, given the congressional election victories by a Republican Party favoring smaller government, Americans attitudes toward government action also reflected a slight uptick. A 52 percent majority said government should do more to help people, while 46 percent said government should do less. In June, 46 percent said more and 50 percent less.
At the same time, a 56 percent majority said it prefers Congress rather than Obama take the lead in setting policy for the country. In 2006, after Democrats routed Republicans in midterm elections, a 59 percent majority expressed that view with respect to Congress and President George W. Bush.
Among potential 2016 presidential candidates, the survey showed former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton with a stronger reputation within her party (78 percent positive, 5 percent negative) than either Vice President Joe Biden or Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Among the list of Republican prospects, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee rated the strongest within his party (52 percent positive, 8 percent negative).
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The telephone survey of 1,000 adults, conducted Nov. 14-17, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.