WASHINGTON -- A majority of adults say President Barack Obama does not deserve a second term but are evenly divided on whether he will win re-election next year, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll that highlights some of the campaign obstacles he faces.
Although the public would prefer Obama be voted out of office, he fares relatively well in potential matchups with Republicans Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Another bit of good news for Obama -- for the first time since spring, more adults said the economy got better in the past month than said it got worse.
The president's approval rating on unemployment shifted upward -- from 40 percent in October to 45 percent in the latest poll -- as the jobless rate fell to 8.6 percent last month, its lowest level since March 2009.
But Obama's approval rating on his handling of the economy overall remains stagnant -- 39 percent approve and 60 percent disapprove.
Heading into the 2012 campaign, the poll shows the challenges facing Obama as he tries to win a second term among a public that does not support his steering of the economy, the most dominant issue for Americans, or his reforms to health care, one of his signature accomplishments.
Yet voters appear to be grappling with whether to replace him with Romney or Gingrich.
For the first time, the poll found that a majority of adults, 52 percent, said Obama should be voted out of office, while 43 percent said he deserves a second term.
The numbers represent a reversal since May, when 53 percent said Obama should be re-elected and 43 percent said he should not be.
Separately, the newest poll showed that 49 percent expect Obama to win re-election, while 48 percent think he will lose.
Obama's overall job approval stands at a new low -- 44 percent approve while 54 percent disapprove.
The president's standing among independents is worse -- 38 percent approve while 59 percent disapprove.
Among Democrats the president holds steady with an approval rating of 78 percent, while only 12 percent of Republicans approve of the job he is doing.
"I think he's doing the best he can. The problem is the Congress won't help at all," said Rosario Navarro, 44, a Democrat and a truck driver from Fresno, Calif., who voted for Obama in 2008 and intends to support him again.
Robin Dein, 54, a homemaker from Villanova, Pa., who is an independent, said she supported Republican John McCain in 2008 and has not been impressed with Obama's economic policies. She intends to support Romney if he wins the GOP nomination.
"(Obama) spent the first part of his presidency blaming Bush for everything, not that he was innocent, and now his way of solving anything is by spending more money," Dein said.
Despite the soft level of support, many are uncertain whether a Republican president would be a better choice.
Asked whom they would support in November, 47 percent of adults favored Obama compared with 46 percent for Romney. Against Gingrich the president holds a solid advantage, ahead 51 percent to 42 percent.
The potential matchups paint a better picture for the president among independents. Obama receives 45 percent of non-aligned adults compared with 41 percent for Romney.
Against Gingrich, Obama holds a wide lead among independents, with 54 percent supporting the president and 31 percent backing Gingrich.