A few notes from this week's pre-Christmas, post-election nationwide survey from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. As a point of reference, the final poll in this series in November gave Hillary Clinton a four-point national lead. She won the (irrelevant) popular vote by two percentage points. Anyway, a few data points from their latest numbers -- which are gathered from American adults, not registered voters:
(1) Donald Trump's favorability rating has jumped 12 points since mid-October, from an abysmal 29 percent (which was an outlier, even by Trump's historically-low pre-election standards) to 41 percent today. More Americans, 47 percent, view him unfavorably. Still, a net (-6) rating is relatively good for him. As we discussed based on exit polling on November 9, negative views of Trump were not overstated in national polls. What the experts didn't expect was for Trump to pull in a substantial number of votes from people who nevertheless hold an unfavorable opinion of him.
(2) The right track/wrong track numbers also improved substantially, with the percentage of Americans saying the country is headed in the wrong direction dropping to 54 percent. That's down from 65 percent in the thick of the election cycle. This seems to align with Fox News' poll last week showing that of all the adjectives Americans associate with their sentiments now that the election has been resolved, "hopeful" was at the top of the list, at 59 percent. This stat is also interesting: "When asked about the outlook for the economy over the next year, 42% of Americans said it would get better and 19% said worse. That marked the highest level of economic optimism since October, 2012."
(3) Half of Americans approve of Trump's handling of his presidential transition, with voters sharply divided on Trump's appointments thus far:
NBC/WSJ poll: Voters evenly split on approval of Trump's cabinet picks thus far pic.twitter.com/gxhzzabYWN— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 20, 2016
Voters mostly rejected the criticism from some on the Left that Trump has picked too many ex-military officials to join his team, with 61 percent in support of the move, and just 29 percent calling it a bad idea. The public is more wary of the number of very wealthy cabinet members Trump has nominated.
(4) Trump voters were asked to identify their primary motivation in pulling the lever for him. The large majority of respondents chose one of three answers, distributed roughly evenly: Improving the economy, focusing on America's interests ahead of other nations', and defeating Hillary Clinton. Just one percent said they backed Trump in furtherance of "traditional Republican policies."