Four Things That the New NBC/WSJ Poll Tells Us

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 14 2011 9:17 AM

Four Things That the New NBC/WSJ Poll Tells Us

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OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 12: Occupy protestors march at the Port of Oakland on December 12, 2011 in Oakland, California. Following a general strike coordinated by Occupy Oakland that closed the Port of Oakland on November 2, Occupy Wall Street protestors are attempting to shut down all West Coast ports in Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, Portland, Seattle and Tacoma. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The poll is here; the big, scary number for Boston is the one that pits Newt Gingrich against Mitt Romney in a two-man national race. Gingrich wins big, by 23 points. But there's so much more in here.

1) Republicans think that Mitt Romney is a moderate. Fifty-three percent of them use the hated "M" word to describe him.

Screen shot 2011-12-14 at 11.56.07 AM

Clearly, reminding Republicans that Newt, too, had nice things to say about health care mandates, isn't driving him down. On this count I'd say the GOP electorate is pretty logical. Romney is running on a less radical, less conservative agenda than Gingrich is -- talking up how the middle class needs tax relief, for example, instead of offering a top-heavy supply-side cut like Gingrich.

2) Optimism is back, sort of. For the first time since April, a plurality of voters expect the economy to improve.

Screen shot 2011-12-14 at 12.02.31 PM

All throughout 2009, voters expected the economy to bounce back. Through much of 2010, too. When it didn't, they punished Barack Obama's Democrats. I see no reason why they wouldn't do it again.

3) The 99 percent won, at least on messaging. Most people think that the wealth gap or the overall bad economy was the worst development of 2011.

Screen shot 2011-12-14 at 12.07.52 PM

I'm skeptical about how much "messaging" matters when you don't have results to show off, but if the Occupiers hadn't shown up, what would have been the conversation in the last three months of 2011? The Balanced Budget Amendment? The need for entitlement cuts? They really did change the conversation, even though the image of OWS has fallen from 32/35 percent negative/positive to 27/44 percent negative/positive.

4) Everybody hates Congress. This is probably good news for the president.

Screen shot 2011-12-14 at 12.08.43 PM

Notice that the first year of the Gingrich Congress was seen fairly positively. Twenty-five percent of people said it was "one of the best" or "above average," and 40 percent said it was "below average" or "one of the worst." The respective numbers for the Boehner Congress: 3 percent and 75 percent. Cutting against the president: More people blame overall "partisanship" than blame Republicans specifically.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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