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Obama approval hits new low

By Alan Silverleib, CNN
  • Only 42 percent of Americans approve of Obama's job performance in a new CNN/ORC poll
  • Likely voters now favor Republicans over Democrats by nine points
  • 56 percent of Americans say Obama has fallen short of their expectations
  • Almost half of all voters backing the GOP say they are doing so simply to oppose the Democrats

Washington (CNN) -- With little more than a month to go before the midterm elections, President Barack Obama's approval rating has hit an all-time low.

Only 42 percent of Americans now approve of how Obama's handling his job as president, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll. Fifty-four percent disapprove of his performance.

The figures represent a new low-water mark in the CNN/ORC poll for the president, who, almost two years into his term, continues to wrestle with public worries over a sluggish economy and exhaustion with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Congressional Democrats aren't faring much better. They now face a nine-point deficit when likely voters are asked which party they'll back in November, according to the poll.

Top non-partisan political analysts have given the Republicans a serious shot at picking up the 39 seats necessary to recapture the House of Representatives.

A solid majority of all Americans -- 56 percent -- say that Obama has fallen short of their expectations. As a result, the president is not in a position to help struggling Democratic candidates; only 37 percent of likely voters say they are more likely to vote for a congressional candidate backed by Obama.

In contrast, half of all likely voters now say they are likely to choose a candidate supported by the conservative Tea Party -- contributing to the GOP's 53 to 44 percent lead when such voters are asked which party's candidate they will choose in November.

Also damaging the Democrats: the enthusiasm gap. Republicans in general are much more engaged and excited about voting than Democrats, according to the new poll.

One cautionary note for Republican candidates: voters aren't wild about the GOP, either. Nearly half of likely voters who say they will vote Republican in the fall say they are doing so to oppose the Democrats, not to support the Republicans.

Also potentially cutting against GOP momentum: while nearly eight in 10 voters favor extending the Bush tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year, a majority oppose extending the cuts for families that make more than that amount.

Republicans have vehemently argued in favor of extending the cuts for the wealthiest Americans as well, arguing that a failure to do so would damage the recovery. Top Democrats, led by Obama, claim that the roughly $700 billion price tag associated with an extension of the cuts for the richest Americans would be fiscally irresponsible.

While the president's approval ratings may seem grim, he has plenty of company among his most recent predecessors. Obama's approval rating exactly matches that of Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in September of their second years in office.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted September 21-23, with 1,010 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

There is a 4.5 percent margin of error for the 506 likely voters questioned in the poll.

CNN's Polling Director Keating Holland contributed to this report.