Poll: Obama's ratings rise as economic outlook improves

President Barack Obama speaks about the "Community College to Career Fund" and his 2013 budget at Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Charles Dharapak

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

Most Americans still say the economy is in a rut, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll, but more and more say the economy is improving. And as the public grows more optimistic about the economy, the poll shows, President Obama is getting some credit for it.

As many as 34 percent of Americans say the economy is getting better, according to the poll, conducted February 8-13, up from 28 percent who thought so a month ago. While more than four in 10 think the economy is stuck in place, the percentage that says it is improving is the highest it has been in nearly two years.

Three in four Americans say the economy is in bad shape, and just 23 percent say it is good - but the percentage that says it is good has also been slowly climbing since late last fall, and is now at its highest level since last March.

And while a majority (59 percent) still think the country is on the wrong track, the percentage that says it is on the right track has risen to 35 percent, up from 29 percent a month ago and the highest in a year.

More Americans still disapprove (50 percent) than approve (44 percent) of Mr. Obama's handling of the economy, but he has improved some on this measure in the last few months. In January, 54 percent disapproved and 40 percent approved.

Evaluations of the president on handling job creation and the deficit also remain net negative, but approval of his handling of job creation is now 41 percent, up from 35 percent in December.

Forty-two percent of voters now think the president has made real progress fixing the economy, up from 33 percent earlier this year and 28 percent in December.

And at 50 percent, Mr. Obama's overall approval rating is now the highest it has been since immediately following the killing of Osama bin Laden last May.

The economy dominates as the issue voters most want to hear the presidential candidates discuss - and many political observers say the economic situation will play a critical role in whether or not the president is re-elected.

Mr. Obama has premised his economic platform on the notion of "fair play and shared responsibility," and his 2013 federal budget proposal includes a tax increase on wealthier Americans. The poll shows that 67 percent of Americans believe there should be a tax increase for households making $1 million or more annually, up from 60 percent in December.

The poll also shows that in the wake of a settlement with five of the nation's largest mortgage lenders, a majority of Americans, 55 percent, think the government should do more to help the housing market. Only 21 percent think it has done the right amount so far.

Voters tend to think both parties are more likely to be headed off on the wrong track than in the right direction, but they are more critical of the Republicans. While just 35 percent think the Democratic Party is headed in the right direction, this number drops even lower - to 26 percent - for the Republican Party. Six in 10 think the Republican Party is off on the wrong track; half say the same about the Democratic Party.

Seventy-three percent of Democrats think their party is headed in the right direction, while 55 percent of Republicans think the same of the Republican Party. Independents think both parties are headed in the wrong direction, though more think this of the Republican Party (67 percent) than the Democratic Party (56 percent).

Meanwhile, Congress' job approval remains low, at just 10 percent -- just one point above the historic low of 9 percent reached last fall.

Obama's Approval Rating over Time


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More from the poll:

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This poll was conducted by telephone from February 8-13, 2012 among 1,197 adults nationwide. 997 interviews were conducted with registered voters. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The margin of error for the sample of registered voters could be plus or minus three points. The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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