WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A poll released on Wednesday carried warning signs for President Barack Obama's re-election chances in 2012.

The Public Policy Polling survey found that for the first time since July, Obama does not lead Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in the group's monthly national poll on the 2012 election race. Romney has pulled into a tie with Obama at 45 percent.

Obama's overall approval rating was at 46 percent, with 48 percent of voters disapproving of him, and this is in line with other recent surveys.

But independents were split against Obama 49 percent to 44 percent, and the president will need independent voters to help carry him to victory in November 2012.

Independents broke solidly for Obama in his 2008 election but helped Republicans win the U.S. House of Representatives in last November's congressional elections.

Obama's approval rating has been in the doldrums because of the 9.2 percent U.S. jobless rate and prolonged wrangling with Congress over raising the U.S. debt ceiling.

The polling organization said on its website that Obama's position appeared worse than meets the eye.

"There's a very good chance Barack Obama would lose if he had to stand for re-election today," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. "This is his worst poll standing in a long time and he really needs the economy to start turning around."

The pollsters said if there is a silver lining for Obama it is that he trailed Romney in the same poll last July and then regained the lead for each of the next 11 months.

Most political analysts believe Obama will be in a strong position for re-election given the relatively weak Republican field, a huge financial advantage in campaign contributions and the potential for an economic recovery.

An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released this week found that Obama led Romney 48 percent to 41 percent but when judged against a generic Republican presidential candidate the margin was tighter at 42 percent to 39 percent.

Separately, the Gallup polling organization's three-day rolling average of its daily poll put Obama's job approval at 42 percent with 48 percent disapproving.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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