Obama's job approval rating has averaged 44 percent in Gallup Daily tracking this month, below the approval rating for seven of eight previous incumbents at a comparable point in their presidencies, Gallup said.
However, five of the eight former presidents -- George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson -- successfully won a second term, and three -- George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford -- lost. The mixed results indicate January approval ratings may not be strongly predictive of the election outcome, but March approval ratings do, the Princeton, N.J., polling agency said.
Americans' overall satisfaction with the direction of the country has varied considerably over the 30 years it's been measured, Gallup said. The current 18 percent satisfaction rate at the start of January is among the lowest Gallup said it found during a presidential re-election year.
On the basis of available data, it seems Obama's March approval rating and U.S. satisfaction level could be more useful than January's in foretelling the election outcome, Gallup said. By March, it should also be clearer whether unemployment will continue its decline and whether the U.S. economy is picking up steam.