President Bush's job approval rating (search), which had slumped in several recent polls, has bounced back to 56 percent in a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll released Monday.

In mid-September, the president's approval was at 50 percent in a similar poll and at 49 percent in an NBC-Wall Street Journal survey -- some of the lowest numbers of the Bush presidency (search). But the recent poll, conducted Oct. 10-12, shows the president's standing with the public improving.

Citing a specific reason for the change is difficult, said Gallup Executive Editor Frank Newport, who instead mentioned several possible factors for the recent increase. Newport pointed to signs of an improving economy, including the uptick in the stock market; the Bush administration lobbying on Iraq and media coverage of the California recall that pushed criticism of the president off the front pages.

In the survey, 53 percent of registered voters said the president deserves a second term, 45 percent said he does not.

Still, the poll hinted that the 2004 race appears close at this stage. Thirty-eight percent said they would definitely vote for Bush, 38 percent said they would definitely vote against him and 24 percent said they were unsure.

In the test of the Democratic presidential candidates, Wesley Clark (search) held a slight lead with 18 percent among voters who are Democratic or lean Democratic. Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman were at 13 percent, John Kerry was at 11 percent and Dick Gephardt was at 10 percent. The remaining candidates were in single digits.

The poll of 1,004 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The margin of error was slightly higher for subgroups such as registered voters, plus or minus 4 percentage points; and Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, plus or minus 5 percentage points.