President Obama's job approval rating has regained some ground and now stands at 50 percent, according to a Fox News poll released Thursday.
Forty-four percent of Americans currently disapprove of the job the president is doing.
In November, the president received his lowest approval rating to date when 46 percent of Americans said they approved of his job performance and 46 percent disapproved.
His high mark so far was in late January when 65 percent approved and 16 percent disapproved.
The president's average approval rating for his first 11 months in office is 56 percent.
On the issues, the president garners his best rating on Afghanistan, with 49 percent approving of his handling of the war, up from 41 percent in mid-October. President Obama outlined his new strategy on Afghanistan in a speech on December 1. The plan includes sending an additional 30,000 U.S. troops and starting to bring troops home in July 2011. A majority of Americans approve of the surge and the timetable.
The uptick on Afghanistan doesn't come from the president's party. His approval is buoyed by Republicans, with 38 percent saying they approve, up from 20 percent in October, and from a 10 percentage point increase among independents (48 percent currently approve, up from 38 percent). Among Democrats, 62 percent approve, down just one point from 63 percent two months ago.
Obama's 49-percent approval rating on Afghanistan is somewhat better than the 45 percent approval he receives for handling the economy, and is significantly higher than the 39 percent approval rating on health care. Many more voters disapprove (58 percent) than approve (33 percent) of how the president is handling the federal deficit.
The top issues currently facing the country are crystal clear to Americans -- improving the economy (27 percent) and creating jobs (26 percent). Despite the full-court press on health care by the president and lawmakers, and an international conference on climate change, far fewer Americans see those issues as the most pressing (10 percent and 2 percent respectively).
Iraq and Afghanistan (8 percent), the deficit (7 percent) and taxes (6 percent) also trail far behind the nation's economy and the job situation as priorities to be addressed.
Earlier this week Obama unveiled a government job-creation proposal. Americans prefer a different idea: cut taxes. By 50-38 percent, the poll finds Americans think cutting taxes on individuals and small businesses would do more to help create jobs right now than passing a new government job creation plan.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from December 8 to December 9. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Extra Bank Bailout Cash
Recently the treasury department announced the bank bailout will cost approximately $200 billion dollars less than expected. Most Americans think the money should be used to reduce the deficit (41 percent) or returned to taxpayers (40 percent) — far outnumbering the 14 percent who say the money should be spent on other programs.
What do voters think Obama would like to do with the extra cash? Over half (55 percent) think he'd like to spend it on programs that might help him in the upcoming election, while 25 percent think the president would like to return it to taxpayers and only 8 percent say he would rather save it for an emergency.
The number of voters approving of Congress increased this month and currently stands at 33 percent, up from 26 percent last month. Even so, nearly six in 10 Americans disapprove (59 percent).
The high level of dissatisfaction translates into a slim three percentage point advantage for Republicans in the generic Congressional vote: If the 2010 election were held today, 42 percent of voters say they would back the Republican candidate and 39 percent the Democrat.
The ever-important group of independent voters currently gives the edge to Republicans by 34 percent to 29 percent, with 29 percent saying it is too soon to decide.
Other highlights from the poll:
-- Half of Americans (50 percent) describe 2009 as a bad year for their family, while 34 percent say it was a good year. Fourteen percent describe it as mixed.
-- By a razor-slim 46 to 44 percent margin, Americans think Obama will fail to be re-elected. Most Democrats (71 percent) think he will be re-elected, while most Republicans (73 percent) disagree. For independents, 46 percent think Obama will win again in 2012 and 44 percent disagree.
-- Vice President Biden's job approval rating has dropped to 38 percent, down from 49 percent in June, and a high of 53 percent approval in April.
-- Secretary of State Clinton receives higher marks than either the president or the vice president, with 66 percent of Americans saying they approve of the job she's doing and 22 percent disapproving.
-- Last year this time, before Obama took office, 62 percent of Americans had a positive outlook for his presidency, expecting he would be one of the country's "greatest" presidents (19 percent) or a "good" president (43 percent). The latest poll finds that optimism has dropped significantly to 43 percent: 13 percent expect Obama to be one of the "greatest" and 30 percent a "good" president.
Currently 24 percent think Obama's presidency will be "average," virtually unchanged from the 23 percent who said that last year (9-10 December 2008). Another 28 percent think his time in office will be below average (12 percent) or he will be one of the country's "worst" presidents (16 percent).