When President Obama took office in January 2009 he enjoyed soaring job approval and favorable image scores. But, as time has passed the laws of political gravity have taken hold as we have watched ratings for him and his party steadily decline throughout his first year in office.

Now, as we’re settling into 2010 we’re seeing that Republicans are benefitting from the public’s waning support for Obama and Democrats in Congress. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll* shows Republicans closing the gap on the key issues of the day.

Who Do You Trust To Do A Better Job Handling (ITEM) — Obama or Republicans in Congress? 
 2-15+The economy and health care reform asked in November-09; federal budget deficit and threat of terrorism asked in September-09.
Underscoring these results, 43% of Americans say they trust Democrats to do a better job in coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years compared to 37% who trust Republicans. Again, this gap has closed considerably from a year ago when 56% preferred Democrats and 30% opted for Republicans in February 2009.

Additionally, the image of the Democratic Party is just about as low as we have measured in twenty years of NBC/WSJ tracking. It has swung from 49% positive, 31% negative in February 2009 to 39% positive, 38% negative a year later. Since December, we have also shown the public’s preference for who controls Congress tied within margin of error – the last election cycle we had it this close was 2004.

Granted, Republicans are not yet winning the public’s trust, and they are still not viewed that favorably by Americans (32% positive, 38% negative in our last NBC/WSJ poll**). But, these measures indicate that the political winds are changing and the momentum is all on the Republican side heading into the 2010 election season.

*Washington Post/ABC News national survey conducted February 4-8, 2010 among 1,004 adults.
**NBC/WSJ national survey conducted January 23-25, 2010 among 800 adults.

(Public Opinion Strategies partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.)

Public Opinion Strategies