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 President Barack Obama approaches his second year in office with just 50 percent job approval in the Gallup Poll, a near-low for his first year and one of the lowest second-year starting points for any modern-day presidents -- only a notch higher than President Ronald Reagan's approval rating at the start of his second year.

The results of Gallup's daily tracking polls from Jan. 2-4 come in the midst of an embarrassing intelligence failure, an admitted breakdown that permitted a known threat to board a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day carrying explosives.

And this week, the Obama administration will release another assessment of the job market carrying 10 percent or potentially greater unemployment into the new year.

All of this weighs on the public's perception of the president at a time when he also is pushing a health-care overhaul lacking widespread public support through Congress.

With the House and Senate having passed their own versions of health-care legislation, leaders will be consumed this month with negotiations for a final bill. And those talks, inevitably behind closed doors, will draw continuing criticism for the secrecy surrounding negotiations which Obama once suggested should play out publicly on C-Span. The president will meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and several House committee chairman this afternoon at the White House.

The president still enjoys strong support within his own party -- 84 percent job approval in the Gallup surveys -- and minimal support from Republicans -- 14 percent. It is a loss of support among independents, who helped elect Obama, which is most notable in the latest polls -- with just 47 percent voicing approval for his performance.

Gallup notes that Obama's initial approval rating in his second year as president is "among the lowest for elected presidents since Dwight Eisenhower. Only Ronald Reagan -- who, like Obama, took office during challenging economic times -- began his second year in office with a lower approval score (49 percent).

"However,'' Gallup's Lydia Saad notes, "Obama's disapproval rating is slightly higher than Reagan's was (44 percent vs. 40 percent).''

No sitting president whose average approval rating fell below 50 percent during the year in which he sought re-election has succeeded in winning a second term, since the start of Gallup's post-World War II measures of presidential popularity. But two other presidents rated at 50 percent at the start of their second years won second terms.

"The meaning of the 50 percent threshold is somewhat relative,'' Saad writes. "A 50 percent job approval rating would have been cause for major celebration by George W. Bush for much of his second term. But given the speed at which Obama descended to this level in his first year, today it is more of a warning light that this initially muscular administration remains on the threshold of losing majority support.''

The survey of 3,032 adults conducted Jan. 2-4 carries a possible margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
 


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