President Barack Obama faces an uphill challenge for re-election in 2012, though his approval ratings roughly match former President George W. Bush at this point in his first term, according to the latest Gallup poll.
In a hypothetical matchup between President Obama and a generic Republican candidate (who remains unspecified), Obama drew a 44 percent support rating, to the Republican candidate’s 42 percent.
These results are based on a Feb. 1-3 Gallup poll. Forty-four percent of U.S. registered voters say they are more likely to vote for Obama, 42% for the Republican candidate, and the remaining 14% are undecided or would vote for another candidate.
The results come with a caveat — the poll also finds that most Republicans say they don’t support any particular candidate. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Sunday that she wouldn’t rule out running for president in 2012, thought a Marist Poll this week found that Obama would win such a match-up by 15 points, garnering 44 percent of the vote to Palin’s 29. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was behind with 15 percent.
Gallup also adds, “A year into his first term as president, Obama’s approval ratings are hovering around 50%. The 50% approval figure has been a strong predictor of an incumbent president’s re-election: presidents who averaged 50% or better from January of an election year through Election Day have all been re-elected. This includes George W. Bush, who averaged 51% in 2004, though his approval rating was 48% in Gallup’s final pre-election poll.”
“Most Democratic voters and Republican voters plan to support their own party’s candidate for president in the 2012 election,” Gallup adds. “Independents currently show a greater preference for the Republican candidate than for Obama, by 45% to 31%, though about one in four do not have an opinion. However, even with independents leaning in the Republican candidate’s direction, Obama is tied among all voters because of the greater proportion of Democratic identifiers in the registered voter population.”
Of the Republicans polled, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney came first as the candidate they most preferred for a 2012 presidential run.
Gallup’s “bottom line?”
“American voters are at this point about equally divided as to whether they would re-elect Obama or the Republican candidate as president,” they write. “The current data update Obama’s re-election prospects, but generally would not hold much predictive value for the actual election outcome more than two years from now. As the election draws near, such trial-heat races — in addition to his approval rating — become more predictive of the ultimate outcome.
“Obama’s re-election chances partly hinge on whom the Republicans nominate, because it is not clear whether a “generic” Republican (as measured in the current data) would perform better or worse than a specific candidate,” they add. “At this point, Romney and Palin can be considered the early front-runners for the GOP nomination, a position that has proven advantageous in most past Republican nomination campaigns.”