TODAY   |  October 28, 2009

Poll: Support for Afghanistan troop surge up

Oct. 28: The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows more Americans support a troop surge in Afghanistan; meanwhile, President Obama’s job approval rating is steady. NBC’s Chuck Todd breaks down the results.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: So how do voters feel about the decision before President Obama that could send additional troops to Afghanistan ? That was just one of the questions asked in a new NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll. NBC 's political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd has the -- has the results. Chuck , good morning to you. And let's start with that question. When it comes to what next in Afghanistan , how do the people that you asked feel about that?

CHUCK TODD reporting: Well, Meredith , opposition is softening to this idea of sending more troops . Last month a majority, a bare majority, 51 percent, opposed sending any more troops to Afghanistan . But as you know, it's been a monthlong public debate and we've seen the numbers turn around. Now you've got more people telling us they would support sending more troops , 47 percent, than oppose, 43 percent. More interestingly, we asked them various scenarios. And believe it or not, it's more acceptable to send at least 10,000 more troops than to not send any more troops at all as far as the public's concerned.

TEXT: NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll Oct. 22 -25, 2009 +/- 4.4% More Troops ? Acceptable Not Acceptable 10,000 More 55% 36% Stay Same 46% 43% Withdraw 45% 45% 40,000 More 43% 49%

TODD: Now, the idea of sending the 40,000 troops , the General McChrystal strategy, was the least popular option that we tested. But the fact that you have the public saying, `You know what, we can -- we can handle sending more troops ,' shows you the president has a lot of -- a lot more leeway here than maybe some folks thought a month ago.

VIEIRA: You know, the president about a year ago was elected on this message of hope and change. Based on the people that you questioned for this poll, do they feel that he has come through with his promises?

TODD: It's interesting. We did a report card of sorts on various characteristics, 16 different ones we tested. About half of them have to do with Obama the man and about half of them have to do with Obama the president. And as a person he's still very well liked. His score averaged in the 60s, 61 percent on those personal, likable stuff; strong leader, inspirational, exciting. Then when you start asking about various things he's done on the job -- has he achieved his goals, has he been decisive, is he a good commander in chief -- all of those scores averaged in the 40s; in fact, the low 40s. So it's almost as if the public is saying, ` Look , we still like you, we still believe in you, but where's the results?' And to borrow a phrase from the '80s, where's the beef? They haven't seen a lot of action yet. Maybe that'll change if he signs a health care bill, if he makes a decision on Afghanistan , you might see those numbers turn.

VIEIRA: Yeah, let's talk about the health care bill for a second, because that may come to the floor of the Senate soon for consideration.

TODD: Mm-hmm.

VIEIRA: And the sticking point has been, continues to be that public option.

TODD: Right.

VIEIRA: Where do people in the poll stand when it comes to that?

TODD: Again, we've seen opposition soften over the last month. For the first time, more people tell us that they are in favor of a government-run insurance plan, 48 percent, than opposed, 42 percent. But again, most of the numbers moved away from opposing it rather than favoring it. So it's still -- it's probably less controversial with the public than it is here in Washington .

VIEIRA: And next year we're going to be faced with midterm elections. Did this poll favor one party over another when it comes to that?

TODD: I tell you, you read this poll and, Meredith , you probably would come away and say, `OK, the Republicans must be in great shape.' That's what's sort of -- that's what's sort of a little tough to understand with this poll. The public very much wants change, they're not happy with Washington , they're kind of angry, but they're taking it out on both parties.

TEXT: NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll Oct. 22 -25, 2009 +/- 4.4% Trust in Washington Only Some of the Time 65% Always /Most of the Time 23%

TODD: In fact, the Republican Party is now less popular now than when George Bush was still in office; and, of course, they weren't very popular then. And now trust in Washington at an all-time low. You saw those numbers that we just put up. That -- believe it or not, that's a 12-year low when it comes to trust in Washington . So there's a lot of sort of instability out there with the American public.