Polls show Americans divided over Obama, nervous about economy

Jan. 13, 2012: President Obama speaks about government reform at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Jan. 13, 2012: President Obama speaks about government reform at the White House in Washington, D.C.  (AP)

As President Obama enters his reelection fight against a yet-to-be-crowned Republican nominee, polls suggest the president is struggling to re-ignite the kind of energy and passion that defined his following in 2008. 

A steady stream of data in the new year shows Americans are as divided as ever over the caliber of Obama's presidency. And while they give him credit for foreign policy and efforts at reaching across the aisle, the state of the economy continues to raise doubts. 

A Washington Post-ABC News poll out Wednesday showed just 9 percent of Americans believe the country is seeing a strong economic recovery. The stat is virtually unchanged over two years. Though the country's employment picture suggests an improvement in recent months, polling in that time reveals scant elation among Americans. 

A Fox News poll released Monday showed 56 percent of people are pessimistic on the economy. 

And the Washington Post-ABC News poll showed 52 percent believe Obama has achieved "not much" or less in his three years as president. Forty-seven percent had positive views of Obama's presidency - numbers that reflect a similar split from two years ago. 

The glut of polling reveals a theme. Not only are voters divided over Obama's performance, but the president's numbers have changed very little since the beginning of 2010. 

A CBS News/New York Times poll Wednesday put Obama's approval at 47 percent. The Washington Post-ABC News poll put his approval at 48 percent, his disapproval at the exact same percentage. 

Obama's latest Gallup approval rating is 45 percent. It's been close to that for the past two years, save for a slight bump following the killing of Usama bin Laden

Historically speaking, a 45 percent approval rating in the January of an election year is not disqualifying. Bill Clinton was at 47 percent in January 1996, and went on to win reelection. 

But 45 percent is far from ideal. George W. Bush was polling much better, at 55 percent, in January 2004. 

Analysts often say Obama's fate remains tied to the state of the economy. Recently, there have been glimmers of hope on that front, with the jobless rate dipping down to 8.5 percent in December. It's been dropping slightly for four consecutive months. Consumer confidence also shot up in December, according to The Conference Board research group. 

But presidential polling suggests voters are hesitant to interpret the reports as a trend, or at least a trend they can peg to Obama. 

And entering his fourth year, Obama faces some strong sentiments against his presidency. 

The Fox News poll showed voters split in a hypothetical matchup between Obama and GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney. But among those supporting Romney, nearly 60 percent said they considered their choice a vote "against Obama" rather than for Romney. 

A Rasmussen Reports poll out Wednesday showed 40 percent of voters strongly disapprove of the president, while just 23 percent said they strongly approve. 

That poll of 1,500 likely voters was conducted over a three-day period, and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points. 

The Washington Post poll of 1,000 adults was conducted Jan. 12-15, and had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. 

The New York Times poll of 1,154 adults was taken Jan. 12-17, and had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.