Fox News Poll: 45 percent approve of Obama, as 83 percent say country still in recession

President Barack Obama’s job approval rating remains in negative territory -- unwelcome news for an incumbent running for re-election.  Even so, the president’s regained some ground from earlier this month.

While 45 percent of American voters approve of the president’s performance, a 51-percent majority disapproves, according to a Fox News poll released Wednesday.  That’s a bit of an improvement from two weeks ago when 42 percent approved and 51 percent disapproved (April 9-11).

One reason the president’s job approval suffers: 83 percent of voters think the country is still in a recession -- including 35 percent who think things could get worse.  That’s little changed from a year ago, when 82 percent thought the country was still in a recession (with 38 percent saying things could get worse).

Overall, 15 percent of voters believe the recession is over.  That’s mostly unchanged from 16 percent last year (April 2011).

Meanwhile, the poll finds an increase in optimism over the past two years.  Fifty-four percent today think that while the economy is still in recession, things are getting better or think the recession is over and the economy is recovering.  That’s up from 49 percent last year, and 43 percent who felt that way in 2010.

Click here for full poll results

Views on the economy are seen through a partisan lens.  A 64-percent majority of Democrats says the recession hasn’t ended, but things are getting better.  For Republicans, a 54-percent majority says the recession continues, and things could get worse.

The poll asks respondents to name, without the aid of a list, who or what is most responsible for the current condition of the economy.  Former President George W. Bush and Republicans top the list (25 percent), followed by President Obama and Democrats (21 percent).  Another 14 percent generically blame “the federal government.”

By a 16 percentage-point margin, more voters think raising taxes on wealthy Americans will help (40 percent) rather than hurt the economy (24 percent).  A third says it won’t make much of a difference either way (34 percent).  Democrats are nearly four times as likely as Republicans to say raising taxes on the wealthy will boost the economy.

Meanwhile, voters with an annual income of less than $100,000 think raising taxes on the wealthy will help the economy.  Those with income over $100,000 are most likely to say such an increase won’t make a difference.

Even so, by a 16 percentage-point margin voters see Obama’s so-called “Buffett Rule” proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans as an “election-year gimmick,” as opposed to a serious proposal, and by two-to-one voters think those additional tax dollars would be used mainly to fund more government spending (58 percent) rather than reduce the federal deficit (28 percent).

Most Republicans (84 percent), a majority of independents (63 percent) and about a quarter of Democrats (24 percent) think the president’s Buffett Rule proposal is a gimmick.

All in all, the nation is evenly divided over whether President Obama is taking his share of responsibility for the country’s economy.  While 44 percent say he is, 47 percent think after three years in office Obama is spending too much time blaming others.

Seventy-six percent of Democrats think Obama is taking his share of responsibility.  Even more Republicans -- 86 percent -- think he is blaming others.   Independents are more likely to say the president is blaming others (by a 47-37 percent margin).

Additional findings from the poll:
-- Equal numbers of voters -- 42 percent -- approve and disapprove of the job Vice President Joe Biden is doing.   Sixteen percent are unsure.

-- Sec. of State Hillary Clinton receives better ratings than her boss: 67 percent of voters approve of the job she’s doing.  That includes not only 94 percent of Democrats, but also 60 percent of independents and 40 percent of Republicans.  Approval of Clinton bests Obama across the board, as 83 percent of Democrats, 33 percent of independents and 7 percent of Republicans give him the thumbs up.

-- Voters approve of the U.S. withdrawing military troops in Afghanistan by a wide 78-16 percent margin.  Furthermore, even if U.S. military leaders think Pakistan poses a threat and so want to keep troops there to protect the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, 61 percent support withdrawing U.S. troops.

-- Fully 84 percent of voters think recent scandals involving the General Services Administration and the Secret Service are things that could happen under any administration.  Some 15 percent think these are example of bad management by the Obama administration.

-- A 53-percent majority says the government’s program to crack down on illegal gun-trafficking known as “Operation Fast and Furious” was a “bad idea from the start.”  About a third of voters think it was a “good idea that went bad” (33 percent).  A third thinks Attorney General Eric Holder should be fired over the program, which allowed thousands of guns to be smuggled into Mexico.  Another third thinks Holder should be reprimanded, but not fired and 12 percent say no action should be taken against him.

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 915 randomly-chosen registered voters nationwide and is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from April 22 to April 24.  For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.