By Steven Shepard
June 16, 2011 | 7:30 AM
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll confirms what other recent surveys have shown: The bump that President Obama received in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death has receded. And amid renewed pessimism about the direction of the country, voters' desire to re-elect the president has reverted to levels seen earlier this spring.
Obama's approval rating sits at 49 percent, three points lower than last month -- and equal to his approval rating in April. The percentage of Americans who disapprove of Obama rose five points over the last month to 46 percent, one point higher than the April poll.
A majority of Americans still disapproves of the job that Obama is doing in handling the economy, though that number has rebounded slightly from the record low set last month. Now 41 percent approves of Obama's economic performance, up from just 37 percent in May.
After a brief uptick in May, the percentage of Americans who see the U.S. as off on the wrong track has risen to 62 percent.
That is taking a toll on Obama's re-election prospects. As in May, 45 percent of registered voters say they will probably vote for Obama in November 2012. While that number has stayed constant, the percentage of voters who say they will probably vote for the Republican candidate has risen 10 points in the last month, to 40 percent. The five-point lead Obama holds over a generic Republican is equal to margins recorded in April and February.
Obama's lead over the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is now just six points among registered voters, 49 percent to 43 percent. That is down from a nine-point advantage for Obama in February.
Romney leads among a smaller sample of national Republican primary voters. Romney is the preferred choice of 30 percent of Republicans in the poll, with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in second place at 14 percent. Businessman Herman Cain is third with 12 percent, and Texas Gov.Rick Perry is fourth at 8 percent.
Americans are not only taking their frustration out of the administration. The percentage of Americans who approve of how Congress is handling its job is only 18 percent, the lowest rating since March 2010. A whopping 74 percent of Americans disapprove of the legislative branch.
Voters are now split on which party they would like to see control Congress after the 2012 elections: 44 percent prefer a Democratic Congress, and 44 percent prefer a GOP-controlled Congress. In the final poll before the 2010 elections, Democrats held a two-point lead on this question but lost 63 seats in the House, handing control of that chamber to Republicans.
The poll was conducted June 9-13 by a bipartisan team led by Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican pollster Bill McInturff. The sample size for all adults is 1,000, for a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. There were 836 registered voters; those results carry a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent. For the Republican presidential primary, the sample size was quite a bit smaller: 242 voters were surveyed, for a higher margin of error of +/- 6.3 percent.