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Americans fault Trump for chaotic government shutdown, as more believe US is 'on the wrong track': NBC-WSJ poll

Key Points
  • An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll showed that by 63 percent to 28 percent , a margin greater than two to one, Americans believe the country is "off on the wrong track" rather than "headed in the right direction."
  • By a 50 percent to 37 percent margin, Americans blame President Donald Trump, rather than Democrats in Congress.
President Donald Trump speaks with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 11, 2018.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The government shutdown that just ended has deepened Americans' discontent with the state of the nation--and they place the blame primarily on President Donald Trump, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday showed.

The poll's results showed that by 63 percent to 28 percent , a margin greater than two to one, Americans believe the country is "off on the wrong track" rather than "headed in the right direction." That's significantly worse than the 56 percent to 33 percent finding from the December NBC/WSJ poll, taken before the shutdown.

And by 50 percent to 37 percent, Americans blame Trump, rather than Democrats in Congress, for the debacle. That result reflects their disagreement with his stance on the issue that caused it.

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Pluralities disapprove the president's handling of border security and immigration issues, and say would-be immigrants across the southern border with Mexico would strengthen rather than weaken America. A 52 percent majority opposes construction of a wall or fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, while 45 percent favor it.

Unlike some other national polls, the NBC/WSJ survey did not show a decline in Trump's overall approval rating. That assessment, buoyed by majority support for his handling of the economy, remained unchanged from December: 43 percent approve, 54 percent disapprove.

Underneath that unimpressive showing lies sharply negative assessments of the president. Just one-third of Americans express confidence that Trump has the right goals and policies; an even lower proportion, 28 percent, express confidence that he has the right personal characteristics to be president.

On both counts, he compares unfavorably to public assessments of his predecessors: Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

By 47 percent to 36 percent, Americans rate Trump negatively rather than positively for "being a good negotiator," the characteristic he has long claimed as his signature quality. He fares even worse on "being steady and reliable" (53 percent negative, 32 percent positive), "being knowledgeable and experienced enough" (54 percent negative, 32 percent positive), "being honest and trustworthy" (58 percent negative, 28 percent positive) and "having high personal and ethical standards" (58 percent negative, 24 percent positive).

The telephone survey of 900 adults, conducted Jan. 20-23, carries a margin for error of 3.27 percentage points.

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Key Points
  • Until recently, only white men had a realistic chance of success in Democratic presidential politics.
  • This year, at least four women, two African-Americans and one Latino have serious prospects for a 2020 bid.
  • And the digital revolution has so up-ended campaign finance that previously-unknown politicians who become viral stars can rapidly build familiarity, poll standing and presidential-size treasuries.