Obama's Approval Rating Slips On Worries About Jobs, Deficit

Public approval of President Obama's job performance has dropped slightly this spring as Americans have grown increasingly concerned about unemployment and the federal budget deficit, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

President Barack Obama
Photo by: Pete Souza

The poll shows that 56 percent of Americans give Obama a thumbs-up on his performance as president, down from 61 percent percent in April. The proportion expressing disapproval rose to 34 percent from 30 percent.

The telephone survey of 1,008 adults, conducted June 12-15, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.

The shift, five months after Obama took office as president, follows continued bad news on the unemployment rate, which rose to 9.4 percent in May. Some 35 percent of those surveyed called unemployment the most important economic issue facing the country, up a bit from 33 percent in January.

Another 24 percent of those surveyed called the federal budget deficit the most important issue, up from 15 percent in January.

That explains why Republican have pressed the case that Obama has failed to curb the deficit, which is expected to hit $1.8 trillion this year. That argument appears to have taken a toll on the president even though just 6 percent of those surveyed hold the Obama administration responsible for the deficit.

Americans continue to like the new president and favor his party over the GOP. Sixty percent of Americans say they hold a positive view of Obama, compared to 29 percent of who hold a negative view. Americans rate the Democratic Party positively by a 45 percent to 37 percent margin; Republicans receive just 25 percent positive marks, compared to 44 percent negative.

On specific policies, a 55 percent majority of Americans call the U.S. government's role in as majority shareholder in a post-bankruptcy General Motors "the wrong approach" since it violates free market principles.

The public splits on whether government should emphasize cost control or covering the uninsured in health care reform, and on whether Obama's approach is a good or bad idea.

When some elements of Obama's approach are described, however, a 55 percent majority expresses support for it. That suggests the White House has an opening to building public backing by effectively communicating about the plan.

Obama's nomination of Federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court has passed its early test in public opinion. Some 50 percent call her qualified for the high court, matching the 51 percent who expressed the same judgment of Samuel Alito after President George W. Bush nominated him nearly four years ago.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, on the other hand, holds a more tenuous position in public opinion than his immediate predecessor. Asked whether Obama should reappointment Bernanke as chairman when his term ends next year, 33 percent replied yes, 39 percent said no, and 28 percent weren't sure.

In October 1999, 61 percent of Americans said then-President Bill Clinton should reappoint Alan Greenspan.