A third of the poll's participants said news media have done an "excellent" or "good" job as a government watchdog, while 37 percent said media earned "fair" marks, results showed.
Twenty-seven percent of participants ranked media as "poor," the Princeton, N.J., polling agency said.
The findings come from a Gallup survey sponsored by the non-partisan First Amendment Center.
Forty percent of respondents said news media could do a better job reporting on Obama's economic policies, followed by 30 percent saying healthcare, Gallup said.
Forty-three percent of survey participants said media's collective performance as watchdog under Obama was equal to how news outlets did during previous administrations. However, 31 percent of respondents said they believed the media were worse, compared to 21 percent who said television, newspapers radio and Internet were doing a better job.
Results are based on nationwide telephone interviews with 1,026 adults Jan. 20-21 as part of Gallup Daily tracking. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.