Nightly News   |  January 28, 2014

NBC/WSJ Poll: Deep Pessimism in U.S.

Just three percent of people used the word “strong” when describing the state of the nation.

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>>> the president appears inside the capitol behind us here tonight to deliver his fifth state of the union . there's been advanced talk of bypassing congress on some measures, on what he'll say about the income gap and the minimum wage , and the speech to the nation comes as our new nbc news/ wall street journal poll finds continuing deep pessimism across this country. let's go across town to our chief white house correspondent chuck todd .

>> reporter: a chilly reception, shall we say? aids are selling the state of the union as one filled with realistic goals. the buzz word of the night for the president will be the word opportunity. new ideas to help deal with the economic and equality situation. the president plans to issue an executive order that raises the minimum wage for new federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour. he hopes congress will pass the full law. what should be the top priorities of the president this year? here are the top five, they want to focus on creating jobs, reducing the deficit, expanding preschool education to everyone. dealing with the iranian nuclear threat and closing corporate tax loopholes. the real challenge for the president tonight is breaking through to a public that's deeply skeptical of everybody in this town. in our poll we asked people to describe the state of the nation , and just 3% used the word that the president is going to use tonight and that's strong. most folks opted for negative terms. 37% chose divided. 23% went with troubled. 21% said deteriorating. it's not surprising that just 28% of people in our poll say the country is headed in the right direction. 63% say we're on the wrong track. this continues a decade of pessimism, tenth straight year people say we're on the wrong track than the right one. that's a grim backdrop for the president tonight.

>> chuck todd at the white house setting the table for tonight's speech.