Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New WSJ/NBC Poll: 'Addressing climate change' is the dead-last, lowest priority issue for Americans


The latest Journal/NBC poll shows a nation deeply concerned about the President and the economy even as the latter has shown signs of improvement. A full 59% say they are either "pessimistic and worried" or "uncertain and wondering" about how the President will perform as he serves out the remaining three years of his term. The 800 respondents to the survey rank job-creation and deficit-reduction as high priorities, while assigning the lowest priority among 13 foreign and domestic issues to "addressing climate change." That makes 802 of us.

Poll Finds Americans Anxious Over Future, Obama's Performance
President to Face Unsettled Nation in State of the Union Speech


Updated Jan. 28, 2014 12:45 a.m. ET The Wall Street Journal

President Barack Obama will lay out his agenda for the year on Tuesday night before a nation increasingly worried about his abilities, dissatisfied with the economy and fearful for the country's future, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.

President Obama speaks to a nation Tuesday that is worried about his abilities, dissatisfied with the economy and fearful for the nation's future, a new WSJ/NBC News poll finds. Neil King reports. Photo: Getty Images.

Since the rise of modern polling in the 1930s, only George W. Bush has begun his sixth year in the White House on rockier ground than Mr. Obama.

At the same time, the public supports many of the themes and policy ideas Mr. Obama looks set to emphasize in his annual State of the Union address to Congress. Large majorities of respondents said they want the White House and lawmakers to focus on job creation and early-childhood education, and a slimmer majority favored increasing the minimum wage.

Just over half of the 800 Americans participating in the Jan. 22-25 poll want the government to play a role in reducing income inequality, and Mr. Obama is expected to back proposals in those areas as part of a broader effort to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The president is expected to revive many of those ideas in this year's speech. "You lay outgoals at the beginning of the year that aren't limited to, you know, a one-year evaluation," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, who defended the president's record, telling reporters on Monday that historians would judge the president's legislative record to date as "huge and important."Mr. Obama didn't see much progress on his call in last year's address for swift action to tighten gun laws, address climate change and raise the minimum wage. A comprehensive immigration bill he backed passed the Senate, but House Republicans say they will pursue a piecemeal approach.

The survey found that just over half of Americans disapprove of the president's job performance, with 43% approving, a trough that remains little changed since the early summer. Nearly six in 10 say they are uncertain, worried or pessimistic about what he will do with the remainder of his presidency. Disapproval for Congress, too, is near its all-time high.

Mr. Obama's congressional address may offer him the best chance of the year "to try to achieve a reset with a focus on the economy after last year's glitches with Obamacare," said Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster who helped conduct the survey.

Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who also helped craft the poll, said Mr. Obama's personal standing has taken such a hit over the past year that "re-establishing his approval rating will be very difficult."

White House aides say the president also plans to use the nationally televised address to make a case for increased efforts—through executive action, if necessary—to expand hiring, infrastructure development, job training and educational opportunities, while taking moves to combat climate change.

Nearly three-quarters of poll respondents said the president should also make a top priority of reducing the federal budget deficit, an objective that Mr. Obama hasn't emphasized recently. Deficit reduction ranked second as a priority, after job creation, among a list of issues presented to respondents.

The president appears to have stemmed the long slide in his job rating that began in July. Despite doubts about his job performance, a narrow majority believe he has articulated a clear agenda for addressing issues facing the country.

Only two forces would likely spur a marked upturn in his image, Mr. McInturff said: "A long and sustained economic improvement, or something of sufficient magnitude that gives him a chance for people to take a second look."

Americans are generally satisfied with their own personal economic situation, and gauges of consumer confidence remain strong. But that optimism hasn't translated into strong confidence in the broader economy or the president. In the Journal poll, 61% of respondents said they were satisfied with their own financial situation, but 71% expressed some level of dissatisfaction with the broader economy.

Mr. Obama's low approval numbers spell trouble for congressional Democrats heading into midterm elections this November. Such contests are historically challenging to the party of incumbent presidents. But there are glimmers of hope for his party: More Americans want to see Congress controlled by Democrats than Republicans by a slim 45% to 43%, a shift from December, when Republicans claimed a similarly narrow edge.

And while more Americans still believe the new health law was a bad idea than those who think it was a good one—48% to 34%—a majority of those polled want to keep the Affordable Care Act and would like to see Washington fix it this year.

Addressing climate change was the lowest priority issue by far of the 13 domestic and foreign issues polled


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