Election 2012

Rising Optimism About Economy Gives Obama a Boost: Poll

Rising optimism about the economy has slightly boosted President Obama’s prospects as he accelerates his re-election effort with new proposals outlined in his feisty State of the Union address.

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech.
Getty Images

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows a significant uptick, to 30% from 22% in December, in the proportion of Americans who believe the country is heading “in the right direction. “ Similarly, the proportion of Americans who believe the economy will improve in the next year has risen to 37%, up from 30% in December. Since October, the proportion who expect the economy to get worse in the next year has fallen by roughly half, to 17%.

In tandem with that increase in positive sentiment is a somewhat brighter outlook for Mr. Obama. Approval for the president’s handling of the economy has ticked up to 45%, from 39% in December. Some 50% still disapprove.

But Mr. Obama’s overall job approval rating, considered the most important barometer of his hopes for a second term, has moved into positive territory for the first time in seven months. Some 48% approve of his handling of the presidency, while 46% disapprove. In December, those numbers were reversed.

Those numbers hardly erase Mr. Obama’s vulnerability in November. The national telephone survey of 1,000 adults, conducted Jan 22-24 with interviews completed before the president had delivered his State of the Union speech, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.

But the survey also shows that, while Mr. Obama appeared to benefit from a more optimistic mood about the economy, Congress did not. Just 13% of Americans approve of Congress’ job performance.

That was unchanged from December and down from the already-anemic 22% last February, just after Republicans had gained control of the House and increasing strength in the Democratic-run Senate. The president showed in the State of the Union address, in which he vowed to fight obstruction on Capitol Hill and advocated tougher ethics rules for lawmakers, that he aims to focus public discontent with Washington onto Congress in his re-election bid.