Impressions of US direction improved, but divided by partisanship

President Obama lashes out at Rep. Issa
President Obama lashes out at Rep. Issa

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Story highlights

  • 54% to 46% say things in the country are going well compared to badly
  • That's a reversal from late July

(CNN)More Americans than at any time in Barack Obama's presidency now say that things in the United States are going well, a sharp uptick in positive views and the best reviews of the country's trajectory since January 2007, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll.

Overall, 54% say things in the country today are going well, 46% badly. That's a reversal from late July when 54% said things were going poorly and 46% said they were positive.
The improvement in impressions of the country's path stems largely from shifts among Democrats and independents. Among Democrats, 85% say things are going well, up from 76% in late July. Among independents, 51% now say things are going well, up 9 points since this summer. There's been no significant shift, however, among Republicans: 21% now say things are going well, not significantly different from the 17% who said so in July.
    There's also a stark divide between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. More than 8-in-10 of those behind Trump, whose campaign slogan suggests America has gone off on the wrong track, say things in the US today are going poorly. Among Clinton's supporters, almost 9-in-10 say they're going well.
    The new poll also finds Obama's approval rating holding at 55%, matching the high-point for the President's second term reached earlier in October. Voters behind Trump and Clinton are sharply polarized in their reviews of Obama's handling of the presidency, with 93% of Clinton's supporters saying they approve of Obama while 91% of Trump's backers disapprove.
    About 7-in-10 voters say that if Clinton is elected, they think she will mostly carry out Obama's policies, 27% think she'll go in a different direction. But most of those who say she'll follow Obama's lead consider that to be a bad thing: 40% see it as a negative that she'll pursue Obama's policies, 28% say it's a positive. That tilt stems mostly from the fact that about 8-in-10 who back Trump say Clinton will follow Obama's policies (84%) and add that it's a bad move (82% say that). Her own supporters are split on whether she'll continue in Obama's direction (57%) or head another way (40%).
    Obama's approval rating now outpaces Ronald Reagan's 51% approval rating at this time in 1988 and is nearly on par with Bill Clinton's 57% mark in October 2000. The positive reviews for Obama and the direction the country's heading suggest a positive electoral environment for Democrats heading in to the elections next month.
    Voter preferences in terms of a generic congressional ballot back that up. The poll finds that a generic Democratic candidate for House holds a narrow three-point edge over the Republican among likely voters, a shift since early September, when the Republican inched out the Democrat, 49% to 47%. Democrats have advantages among their traditional core backers on this question, with women, younger voters and non-whites breaking sharply in their favor.
    But, one group that appears to have shifted toward Clinton in this year's presidential politics hasn't shifted the same way on the generic congressional: Whites with college degrees are almost evenly split when it comes to congressional politics, with 50% saying they favor the Republican candidate in their district and 49% backing the Democrat.
    Overall, only 44% of registered voters say their own member of congress deserves to be re-elected. That figure is the lowest in CNN/ORC polling back to fall 2006 -- a window in which the House has changed hands twice. Just 29% say "most members of Congress" deserve re-election, a touch higher than the share saying so at recent low-points in congressional approval during the 2013 partial government shutdown and 2011 near-shutdown (August 2011 and October 2013). Compared to this point just before the 2008 election, both figures are down significantly. In the weeks leading up to that election, 55% said their own member deserved re-election and 37% thought most members did.
    The Democratic Party has one other advantage over the Republicans, according to the poll, it is more well-liked. While the Democrats' image isn't exactly positive (45% of Americans have a favorable view, 45% unfavorable), it's in far better shape than that of the Republican Party (36% favorable to 53% unfavorable).
    The open animosity between Trump and some Republican members of Congress has carried through to his supporters. A majority of Trump's backers say that if elected, he'll pursue policies that are different from those of the GOP leadership in Congress and that it will be a good thing for him to do.
    Few voters generally expect a Trump presidency to hew to the party line: 71% of voters say that if Trump is elected, they expect different policies from those of the GOP leadership in Congress. About 4-in-10 consider that a bad thing, while 28% say a departure from the party line is a positive.
    The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone October 20-23 among a random national sample of 1,017 adults, including 916 registered voters. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample and among registered voters is plus or minus 3 percentage points.