Fully half of the electorate approves of President Obama’s job performance for the first time since March, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Tuesday evening. The poll shows Obama with a 50 percent-to-45 percent lead over GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney among likely voters, adding to a slew of recent polling that shows the president gaining momentum nationally and in key swing states.
The poll also found good news for the president on the race’s main issue: the economy. Forty-two percent of respondents indicated that they believe the economy will improve over the next year, the highest level of economic optimism since October 2009. Though disapproval of Obama’s performance on the economy still outweighs approval, 51 percent to 47 percent, the approval level is at its highest since May 2010.
And Obama has pulled even with Romney on the question of who would better handle the economy, erasing the 6-point lead held by the Republican challenger in July.
Similarly, while the majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, 39 percent -- the highest level since September 2009 -- say they believe it’s headed in the right direction.
But not everything was positive for Obama. After both he and Romney took hits last week for their response to anti-American protests in Cairo and a fatal attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya, Obama’s approval rating on foreign policy dropped 5 points from August, to 49 percent.
And, despite improvements since August, the percentage of Americans who believe the country is worse off now than when Obama took office stands at 41 percent, compared with 38 percent who believe the nation is better off.
The poll, conducted Sept. 12-16, reflects voter reaction from the Middle East crisis but was taken before controversial videos of Romney speaking at a private fundraiser were leaked to the news media. It surveyed 900 registered and 736 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.27 percentage points for registered voters and plus or minus 3.61 percentage points for likely votes.