More Voters Turn on Obama: President’s Approval Hits New Low in Poll as Discontent Extends Beyond GOP

President’s Approval Hits New Low in Poll as Discontent Extends Beyond GOP

The popular discontent that engulfed Republicans amid the partial government shutdown has now washed over President Barack Obama, whose job approval rating has sunk to an all-time low in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Americans just weeks ago heaped scorn largely on congressional Republicans over the dysfunction in Washington. But the new poll found a sharp turn against Mr. Obama, during a month in which lawmakers tiptoed up to a potential debt default and the White House fumbled the rollout of its signature health-care law.

Mr. Obama’s job approval fell to 42%, with 51% of respondents disapproving of his performance as president. That marked a drop in his approval rating from 47% in early October and 53% at the end of 2012.

At the same time, more Americans now view Mr. Obama negatively than positively, for the first time since he emerged as a national political candidate.

In all, the poll of 800 Americans captured an extraordinarily deep and widespread public distaste for the two political parties, those parties’ leaders and the state of politics in the nation’s capital.

The data points of that gloom are varied.

A majority of Americans said they belonged to neither party—a rarity in decades of Journal/NBC polling—while 30% said they would prefer an independent or third-party candidate for Congress, more than wanted to vote for a Republican candidate.

Optimism about the U.S. system of government, at 30%, was at the lowest ebb in 40 years. Just 29% said their congressional representative deserved re-election—a new low—while nearly three-quarters said Congress was contributing to the problems in Washington instead of working to solve them.

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both Republicans, hit their highest negative ratings, as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat.

The image of the Republican Party, which hit an all-time low two weeks ago, dipped still further in the latest survey. Just 22% of Americans hold a positive view of the GOP, compared with 37% who see the Democratic Party favorably.

Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster who provides advice on the survey, said the poll showed how recent events “have sapped the American spirit.”

“Americans are voicing their frustration at a Congress that cannot keep the government open for business and an administration that cannot get health care open for enrollment,” Mr. Hart said.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the survey along with Democrat Fred Yang, described the findings as a “shock wave” that showed the depth of “anger and frustration with everybody in Washington.”

Fallout from the 16-day government shutdown left all sides tainted. Just over 40% of Americans said the standoff made them see Mr. Obama less favorably, while 53% said that of Republicans in Congress and 38% of congressional Democrats.

Many individuals polled were universal in their scorn. Independent voter Robin Noury, a 59-year-old in Ashaway, R.I., had a strong feeling for what should happen to both parties’ representatives in Washington.

“They should all be strung up by their toes and left to freeze dry,” she said, adding that her preference was that “they should all be replaced.”

Phillip Nolan, a 55-year-old retired Marine from San Diego, said that while he thinks Washington learned from this shutdown, “you never know what’s going to happen” next.

“I personally think that they need to grow up,” he said of politicians in the capital.

With Congress now facing a Jan. 15 deadline to approve a new plan to fund the government, fully half of those polled believe another federal shutdown is likely.

More than a quarter of Americans said the 2010 federal health law needs a major overhaul, while 24% said the law should be jettisoned altogether.

Views are more mixed on the significance of technical problems that many people have faced in accessing the new, online federal insurance marketplace. Some 67% said they believe the problems can be fixed or that they are withholding judgment. Nearly one-third believe the website problems represent a long-term design flaw in the law itself “that cannot be corrected.”

There are at least glimmers of an improved attitude on a few fronts. A sharp surge in gloom from the first week of the shutdown appears to have abated, as 70% in the poll think the U.S. is on the wrong track, down from nearly 80% two weeks ago. Optimism about the economy ticked up, even though three-quarters of those polled think the outlook will stay the same or get worse in the next year.

More on the Poll

The Wall Street Journal / NBC News poll was based on nationwide telephone interviews of 800 adults, including a sample of 240 who use only a cellphone. It was conducted from Oct. 25-28, 2013, by the polling organizations of Bill McInturff at Public Opinion Strategies and Fred Yang at Hart Research Associates. The sample was drawn in the following manner: Individuals were selected proportionate to the nation’s population in accordance with a probability sample design that gives all landline telephone numbers, listed and unlisted, an equal chance to be included. Adults age 18 or over were selected by a systematic procedure to provide a balance of respondents by sex. The cellphone sample was drawn from a list of cellphone users nationally, and respondents were screened to ensure that their cellphone is their only phone. The data’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.46 percentage points. Sample tolerances for subgroups are larger.

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