A NBC News/The Wall Street Journal survey conducted January 12-15, 2017 tested a full and thorough battery of questions about both the incoming and outgoing presidents. It provided a comprehensive overview of the state of public opinion about politics and policy as we embark on the peaceful transfer of power between two parties and two very different presidents.
While the dozens of questions asked all have relevance and importance to explaining where America stands right now, the results of the very first question respondents answered – whether they thought the country was headed in the right direction or off on the wrong track – are striking.
In the January poll 37% of American adults said the country is headed in the right direction and 52% said we are off on the wrong track. Now, 52% saying we are off on the wrong track might seem to a casual observer to be a depressingly high percentage.
But, in December, the result was 33% right direction – 54% wrong track. So there has been a slight up-tick in optimism about the direction of the country over the past month.
Comparing today’s mood to the country’s mood just before the election, when 29% of voters said right direction and 65% said wrong track, it’s significantly better.
Looking at the last four years of trend since January 2013, right after President Obama was elected, the percentage of Americans saying wrong track didn’t dip below 59% and the percentage saying right direction didn’t crest 32% in all of Obama’s second term according to the NBC-WSJ poll.
The mood of America is at a four year high and has gotten better, not worse, over the past month!
In fact, we have to go back to December 2009 and January 2010 to find the last time fewer than 55% of Americans said the country was off on the wrong track for two survey tracks in a row.
For all the non-traditional aspects of President-elect Trump, many of which are explored in the rest of the survey, this bump in overall optimism about the direction of the country is actually consistent with past inaugural January findings. As the below chart shows the movement in overall right direction-wrong track shifted similarly following the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and dramatically after the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. However, following the 2000 Electoral College victory by George W. Bush, there was a slight negative slide in this measure.
Polling for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal is conducted by Republican pollster Bill McInturff and Democratic pollster Fred Yang. This analysis is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of NBC, The Wall Street Journal, or Hart Research Associates.