Pessimism over the economy is rising and the grim mood could hurt both parties in the November 2 congressional elections, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday.

Almost two-thirds of Americans believe the economy will worsen before it gets better, up from 53 percent who felt that way in January, the poll found.

Nearly six in 10 of those surveyed said the country is headed in the wrong direction, a percentage that has held steady in NBC/WSJ polling throughout the year.

More than half of respondents said they disapprove of the way President Barack Obama is handling the economy. The poll also found Americans were split on Obama's overall job performance, with 48 percent saying they disapprove and 47 saying they approve.

Congress fared far worse in the poll of more than 1,000 adults conducted in the week leading up to primary elections in four states on Tuesday.

The percentage of Americans who believe the current Congress is either below average or among the worst is at an all-time high, according to the poll.

Seventy-two percent of respondents disapprove of the job Congress is doing -- a finding that could bode ill for incumbents of both major parties seeking re-election.

Democrats have been battling a strong anti-Washington and anti-incumbent mood among voters in their efforts to avert losing control of the House of Representatives and dropping Senate seats in the elections.

Republicans must gain 39 seats in the House and 10 in the Senate if they are to win majorities in both chambers.

If they do take control of one or both chambers in Congress, that would slam the brakes on Obama's legislative agenda.

Forty-two percent of the poll respondents said they want the elections to result in a Republican-controlled Congress. Forty-three percent said they want Democrats to retain control.

Only 24 percent of those polled expressed positive feelings about the Republican Party, a new low in the 21-year history of the survey, the Wall Street Journal said.

Democrats were only slightly more popular, but also near an all-time low, the newspaper said. Thirty-four percent of the respondents had a negative view of the conservative so-called Tea Party movement.

The poll was conducted August 5-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.10 percentage points.

(Editing by Chris Wilson)