CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.
President Obama's job approval rating stands at 49 percent at the midpoint in his first term, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll. Thirty-nine percent disapprove of the job the president is doing.
Mr. Obama's approval rating is below where it was in the first half of last year, when a majority of Americans said they approved of his job performance. But it is improved compared to October, when his approval rating was 45 percent and his disapproval rating 47 percent.
By point of comparison, Mr. Obama's 49 percent approval rating is ten points lower than that of President George W. Bush at the midpoint in his first term, according to past CBS News polls. It is higher than presidents Clinton (45 percent), Reagan (41 percent) and Carter (42 percent), but lower than presidents George H.W. Bush (84 percent), Nixon (56 percent), Kennedy (74 percent) and Eisenhower (70 percent).
The president gets high marks for dealing with the shootings in Tucson, with 64 percent approving of his handling of the situation. But on the issue that Americans say is paramount - the economy - his approval rating is just 41 percent, and 52 percent disapprove of his performance on the economy. Mr. Obama also has net negative ratings on handling the budget deficit, job creation and foreign policy.
Still, Americans feel positive about the rest of the Obama presidency: Fifty-seven percent say they are optimistic about the next two years of the Obama administration, compared to 36 percent who say they are pessimistic.
Nearly three in four Americans say Mr. Obama cares at least to some degree about people like them, including 36 percent who say he cares a lot. That's a drop from the highs of early 2009, when 53 percent said that the president cared a lot about people like them.
And while 65 percent said in February 2009 that Mr. Obama shares their priorities, just 42 percent say as much today. A majority - 52 percent - say he does not.
MORE FROM THE POLL:
Working Together, Civility and Views of the Parties
Americans overwhelmingly say the tone of politics today is mostly negative, with 84 percent casting it as such. Just 11 percent describe the tone as mostly positive.
And while both parties are blamed for that state of affairs, the blame falls somewhat more on Republicans than Democrats. Fifty-six say the blame falls at least somewhat on Republicans in Congress, with 24 percent saying the blame falls a "great deal" on them. Forty-eight percent say the blame falls at least somewhat on Democrats, with 18 percent saying it falls on them a "great deal."
The Democratic Party is viewed more positively than the GOP, though neither party is viewed particularly well. Forty-six percent have a favorable view of Democrats, compared to 45 percent who have an unfavorable view. The Republican Party is seen favorably by 40 percent of Americans and unfavorably by 49 percent.
Former Alaska governor and potential presidential candidate Sarah Palin is seen favorably by just 19 percent of Americans. Fifty-seven percent view her unfavorably.
Palin is viewed favorably by 41 percent of Republicans but just five percent of Democrats and 17 percent of independents. Her unfavorable rating is 29 percent among Republicans, 81 percent among Democrats, and 55 percent among independents.
A majority of Americans say Palin spends more time attacking their opponents than talking about ideas. They say the same of both liberal and conservative television and talk radio hosts.
New GOP House Speaker John Boehner is viewed favorably by just 12 percent of Americans, but his unfavorable rating is only 14 percent. A clear majority - 74 percent - remain undecided or have not heard of him.
This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1036 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone January 15 - 19, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.