But, for the ideal that is compromise, this actually represents significant progress. That's because four years ago, after the GOP took over the House, Americans were basically split on the compromise-versus-principles question. Back then, 47 percent wanted middle ground and 43 percent preferred lines in the sand.
The biggest reason compromise had fallen out of favor was the outlook of many Republicans. With the rise of the tea party, there was an increasing premium on sticking to conservative principles and not budging. And that same desire for purity didn't really exist in the Democratic Party -- at least not nearly to the same extent.
Take this January 2013 poll from the Pew Research Center, which asked a very similar question to NBC/WSJ. It showed 59 percent of Democrats preferred compromise rather than politicians "sticking to their positions." On the GOP side, just 36 percent espoused this view.
Pew, though, has also shown increase in support for compromise. While Americans preferred purity 54-40 percent in its poll in January 2011, compromise took the lead after the 2012 election, 50-44.
Similarly, this new NBC/WSJ poll even shows a plurality of Republicans now favor compromise, 49-45. Whoa, if true.
But before you good-government types get all high on the concept of compromise in the months and years ahead, I present to you: A wet blanket.
The one key word missing from NBC/WSJ's and Pew's previous polls? "Obama." And when you throw him into the mix, all bets are off.
Pew, in its post-election survey this year, asked another compromise question. It gave people two options for the Republicans who will now control Congress:
1) "Try as best they can to work with Barack Obama to accomplish things, even if it means disappointing some groups of Republican supporters?"
2) "Stand up to Barack Obama on issues that are important to Republican supporters, even if it means less gets done in Washington?"
Here's the result:
Republicans and Republican-leaning voters prefer their leaders to "stand up" to Obama rather than compromise by a striking 66-32 percent. That's a far cry from NBC/WSJ's 49-45 percent pro-compromise split. And we would wager that it's all about invoking O-word, along with the idea of "standing up" to him.
(For what it's worth, the same question was asked of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters about their party working with GOP leaders. Democrats preferred working together 52-43 percent. So again, the anti-compromise thing is largely a GOP phenomenon.)
So, yes, the American people generally like the idea of compromise, and even Republicans could be on board with it. But the moment that compromise becomes "with Barack Obama," any notion of a kumbaya moment goes out the window.
And we hate to break it to the pro-compromise crowd, but basically any compromises going forward will be "with Barack Obama." There's really no getting around that.
In other words, when it comes to the idea of Congress and Obama getting stuff done over the next two years, it would be advisable to keep your expectations very low.