According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Friday, Americans now trust the Republican Party over the Democrats on handling several key issues, including the economy, foreign policy, and the deficit.
The poll finds that Americans now trust the Republicans over the Democrats on dealing with the economy by a 33 to 29 percent margin, with 19 percent saying both are about the same, and 17 percent trusting neither. That represents a reversal from February of this year, when Democrats had a 2 percent advantage on the question.
Similarly, Republicans have expanded their edge in the question of who people trust to reduce the federal deficit, from 6 percent in February to 13 percent today. Americans trust Republicans over Democrats in that area by a 35 to 22 percent margin — despite the fact that, under President Obama’s leadership, the deficit is on pace to hit a five-year low.
Significantly, a plurality of the public opposes raising the debt ceiling — 44 percent say that it should not be raised, compared to just 22 percent who say that it should. This suggests that President Obama and the Democrats — who have flatly rejected the premise of negotiating over the debt limit in upcoming fiscal talks — have their work cut out for them when it comes to selling their position to the public. Still, it remains to be seen whether congressional Republicans can extract any leverage from Americans’ opposition to raising the debt ceiling; after all, House Speaker John Boehner has already made it clear that he won’t allow the country to default on its debt, severely limiting his ability to extract concessions for raising the debt limit.
Overall, people are pessimistic about the state of the economy. Just 27 percent say they think the economy will get better over the next 12 months, the lowest percentage in an NBC/WSJ poll since July 2012.
The GOP has also made gains on foreign policy, leading Democrats 33 to 26 percent on the issue. This marks the party’s strongest performance on the subject since George W. Bush’s first term, and is likely driven by President Obama’s unpopular push for military strikes against Syria. Similarly, people trust Republicans over Democrats to ensure a strong national defense by an overwhelming 47 to 14 percent margin.
The news isn’t all good for Republicans, however. On the key question of looking out for the middle class, people trust Democrats over Republicans by 41 to 24 percent. Democrats have a similarly large 37 to 19 percent lead on education. The public also trusts Democrats to better deal with health care, by a 37 to 29 percent margin — down from their 41 to 25 percent lead in February, but still suggesting that the GOP’s nonstop barrage of attacks against Obamacare are not resonating with most Americans.
Furthermore, although Republicans lead on general topics, the party’s brand remains deeply damaged — 44 percent have a negative view of the Republican Party, while just 28 percent view it positively. The Tea Party movement is viewed even worse, with 42 percent viewing it negatively vs. 24 percent positively. Those numbers compare rather negatively to the Democratic Party, which is viewed positively by 40 percent and negatively by 38 percent. When asked which party they’d prefer to see in control of Congress, 46 percent say the Democrats, 43 percent say the Republicans, and 11 percent are not sure.
The poll, which was conducted by Hart Reserach Associates/Public Opinion Strategies, sampled 1,000 adults and has a margin of error of +/- 3.10 percent. The full results can be seen here.
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