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Trump to address nation saddled with record low approval rating: NBC/WSJ poll

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 24, 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland.
Win McNamee | Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center February 24, 2017 in National Harbor, Maryland.

President Donald Trump will address the nation on Tuesday night saddled with the lowest approval ratings of any new chief executive in modern American history, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll shows.

Just 44 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Trump's performance as president, while 48 percent disapprove, according to the survey. Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush all had significantly positive net approval ratings at the outset of their terms.

A 52 percent majority calls early challenges the Trump White House has faced unique to his administration and an indication of real problems. Some 43 percent call them typical growing pains for new presidents.

These results signal difficulty for the president in his attempt to use his address to a joint session of Congress to broaden support for his policy agenda. Republicans hold enough seats in the House and Senate to answer his call for repealing and replacing Obamacare and overhauling the tax system without help from Democrats. But they have no consensus on either subject so far and little margin for error.

As is typical in the modern American party system, opinions on the president and major issues divide sharply according to party affiliation. Mr. Trump retains overwhelming approval from fellow Republicans. But some intra-party unease shows up when Americans are asked who they want taking the lead on national policy.

More say Democrats in Congress (37 percent) than Mr. Trump (33 percent). That's because 19 percent— including one-third of all Republicans —prefer that the Congressional GOP take the lead.

The survey underscores public relations challenges facing the media as well as Mr. Trump. Majorities of Americans say that the media is overstating problems in the Trump White House (53 percent) and has been too critical (51 percent).

By historical standards, Mr. Trump has fared well on his pick to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Some 32 percent say they favor Neil Gorsuch's nomination, while 20 percent are opposed and 47 percent have no opinion. That mirrors findings with other recent court nominees.

Confidence in the economy, meanwhile, remains stable. A 41 percent plurality expects the economy to improve in the next year, while 36 percent expect it to stay about the same and 21 percent expect it to get worse. Those numbers virtually match sentiment from mid-December.

The telephone survey of 1,000 adults, conducted Feb. 18-22, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.