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Obama's Popularity Falls On Health Care, Economy: Poll

Tuesday, 19 Jan 2010 | 6:31 PM ET

President Obama and his Democratic Party have declined considerably in popularity in the year since he took office, weighed down by public discontent over the economy and the health care debate in Congress, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

President Barack Obama
Photo by: Pete Souza
President Barack Obama

The survey showed that just 48% of Americans approve of Obama's performance in office, while 43% disapprove. That result is down sharply from the 56% approval and 31% disapproval that Obama received last February, shortly after his inauguration.

The Democratic Party has suffered similar erosion as its majorities in both the House and Senate have pursued an ambitious White House agenda to stimulate the economy, overhaul health care, revamp energy policy, and re-regulate Wall Street.

Some 38% of Americans express positive views of the Democratic Party, compared to 41% with negative views; last February those views were positive by a 49%-31% margin.

The telephone poll of 1,002 adults, conducted Jan 10-14 with an error margin of 3.1 percentage points, showed both the economy and proposed health care legislation as heavy political burdens for the party in power.

Eight in 10 Americans call themselves dissatisfied with the economy; six in 10 call job creation a top priority for Washington, twice as many as name health care. Though two-thirds say Obama inherited rather than caused economic problems, a 49% plurality disapprove the president's handling of the issue.

An even larger 55% of Americans disapprove of Obama's handling of health care reform. Nearly half call Obama's health care initiative "a bad idea" that would constitute "a step backward." A majority worries that the proposed legislation before Congress would impair their quality of care and choice of doctors.

The only good news for Democrats in the survey is that Republicans continue to be held in low esteem. Some 64% of Americans disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling health care, more than disapprove of Obama's performance.

And the Republican Party's image is weaker than Democrats', with 30% expressing positive views and 42% negative views.

The result of this storm of discontent: voters split evenly, 41% to 41%, on which party they want to control Congress after November's mid-term elections. In April, Democrats held the advantage by a 48%-39% margin.

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