President Obama faces rising political heat over the economy, federal spending and the Gulf oil spill, complicating the Democratic Party's chances in mid-term elections.
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Mr. Obama's approval rating dipping to 45 percent in June, from 50 percent in May. Recent election history shows that presidential approval of 50 percent or higher is critical for the party in power to avoid major mid-term losses in Congress.
The poll shows some of the most important sources of public discontent. More than eight in 10 Americans described themselves as dissatisfied with the economy. And the unabated BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico isn't helping: seven in 10 fear the spill will have a major effect on the economy. By 50 percent to 42 percent, Americans disapprove Mr. Obama's handling of the spill.
Mr. Obama and his party's leaders in Congress face treacherous cross-currents in attempting to respond to economic concerns. A 55 percent majority rates job creation and economic growth as a top priority for the federal government. Yet 69 percent say they favor Congressional candidates who want to cut federal spending, at a time when Democratic leaders consider more spending on unemployment benefits, aid to states and jobs programs as critical to reducing joblessness.
Indeed, 63 percent of Americans say Washington should worry more about keeping the budget deficit down even if it slows economic recovery. That compares to 34 pecent who say Washington should worry more about boosting the economy.
The president's agenda draws mixed reviews. By 47 percent to 40 percent, Americans say they'd be encouraged to hear that a Congressional candidate favors repealing the recently passed health care bill. Yet by margins of two to one or better, Americans share Mr. Obama's desire for more regulation of the oil industry, Wall Street, big corporations and the health insurance industry.
The bottom line for mid-term elections: 45 percent say they want Republicans to recapture control of Congress, while 43 percent want Democrats to retain Congress. The telephone survey of 1,000 adults, conducted June 17-21, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.