Half of Americans want Democrats to control Congress as Trump struggles, poll shows

Key Points
  • Americans now say by 50 percent to 42 percent they want Democrats to control Congress after the 2018 elections, according to a new NBC/WSJ poll.
  • It's the largest lead any party has held on that generic ballot question since 2013.
  • Trump's approval rating remains at a low level of 40 percent.
Donald Trump speaking from the White House on June 20, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

As President Donald Trump continues to struggle, Democrats have moved into a stronger position to challenge Republicans for control of Congress next year, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey shows that just 40 percent of Americans approve of Trump's job performance, while 55 percent disapprove. That's virtually unchanged since last month.

At the same time, Americans now say by 50 percent to 42 percent they want Democrats to control Congress after the 2018 mid-term elections. That's the largest lead either party has held on that generic ballot question in the NBC/WSJ poll since 2013, and the first time either party reached 50 percent on that question since 2008.

Such "generic ballot" questions provide only a rough guide to outcomes in Congressional elections, since results vary widely with the partisan composition of individual districts. Republicans have won all four of this year's special House elections to replace Republicans chosen by Trump for his Cabinet, including contests this week in Georgia and South Carolina.

But the stronger Democratic position reflected in the NBC/WSJ poll mirrors the fact that Democratic candidates in those special elections ran more strongly than Democrats in the same districts in 2014 and 2016.

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Republicans retain some important advantages as both sides look ahead to 2018. By 18 percentage points, Americans say they prefer Republicans over Democrats for dealing with ISIS; they also prefer Republicans for changing Washington (by 9 points), dealing with the economy (7 points), and dealing with taxes (4 points).

As the Senate takes up its version of a GOP health bill, Americans prefer Democrats on that issue by 17 percentage points. They also favor Democrats for helping the middle class (13 points), handling immigration (6 points), and dealing with infrastructure (2 points).

The segment of government Americans want controlling the issue debate least is the White House. Just 21 percent say Trump should have the lead role setting policy for the country. That's third behind Congressional Republicans (25 percent) and Congressional Democrats (45 percent).

Underlying that assessment is the public's negative view of Trump's personal characteristics. Majorities give the president low marks for his temperament (62 percent), his knowledge and experience (55 percent) and his honesty (55 percent).

Only on changing business as usual in Washington does Trump draw higher positive (39 percent) than negative (37 percent) ratings.

The NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll was conducted June 17-20 of 900 adults. It has an overall margin of error of plus-minus of 3.27 percentage points.

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