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Democrats hold double-digit lead for 2018 midterm elections

A new NBC News/WSJ poll also shows President Trump's approval ratings edging up

by Mark Murray /

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WASHINGTON — Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage over Republicans in congressional preference for the 2018 midterm elections, even as President Donald Trump's job approval rating has ticked up, the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds.

Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 40 percent want a GOP-controlled one.

That double-digit lead — typically a sign of strong Democratic performance for the upcoming election — is up from the party's 6-point edge in January's NBC/WSJ poll, which was 49 percent to 43 percent, though the change is within the poll's margin of error.

The survey, which was conducted March 10-14, also shows Democrats holding the early enthusiasm advantage: Sixty percent of Democratic voters say they have a high degree of interest in the upcoming elections (registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale), versus 54 percent of Republicans who say the same thing. In addition, 64 percent of 2016 Clinton voters say they have a high level of interest, compared with 57 percent of 2016 Trump voters.

And among independent voters, Democrats lead in congressional preference by 12 points, 48 percent to 36 percent.

Meanwhile, the NBC/WSJ polls finds that Trump's approval rating stands at 43 percent among all Americans — up four points from January.

Fifty-three percent of adults say they disapprove of the president’s job, down from 57 percent two months ago.

The improvement for Trump comes from Republican respondents (who went from 78 percent approve in January to 84 percent this month), white men (52 percent to 59 percent) and independents (33 percent to 45 percent).

“Trumpism may well help Donald Trump in his 2020 election, but the buck stops there — which is a flashing red light for Republicans in 2017 or 2018,” says Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who conducted the poll with GOP pollster Bill McInturff.

Still, Trump’s overall approval rating at 43 percent is the lowest for any modern president at about 14 months into his job.

“Survey to survey, numbers bounce around. But today’s state of play continues to tell the same story — a president with lower than average job approval starting his second year with a Democratic edge in the midterms,” says McInturff, the Republican pollster.

Also in the poll, the most popular political figures and institutions are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (48 percent positive, 20 percent negative), Planned Parenthood (52 percent positive, 25 percent negative), the “Me Too” Movement (35 percent positive, 18 percent negative) and special counsel Robert Mueller (28 percent positive, 19 percent negative).

The most unpopular figures and institutions include House Speaker Paul Ryan (24 percent positive, 37 percent negative), President Trump (37 percent positive, 52 percent negative) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (21 percent positive, 43 percent negative).

The live-caller NBC/WSJ poll was conducted March 10-14 of 1,100 adults – nearly half reached by cell phone – and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.0 percentage points. The margin of error among the 930 registered voters is plus-minus 3.2 percentage points.

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