For the first time, independent voters—who delivered Mr. Obama the White House and Democrats control of the Congress—disapprove of the job he is doing, 46% to the 41% who approve. In July, 49% of independents approved of the president, against 38% who disapproved.
New doubts about the president have coincided with new hopes for Republicans, who appeared flattened by the election nearly a year ago.
As the 2010 election cycle heats up, independent voters now favor Republican control of Congress by four percentage points.
“For a party walloped two cycles in a row with independents, I think those are very important stories,” said Bill McInturff, a partner at the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, who conducts the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll with Democratic pollster Peter Hart.