Obama also entered his second term with many voters still pessimistic or unsure about their economic prospects, results of a poll conducted for The Hill indicated.
Fifty-two percent of Americans said they approve of the job Obama is doing, higher than it has been during the past two years, results of the Pew Research Center survey released Thursday indicated.
Obama's rating, while improved, still is behind all but one of the last seven presidents who won a second term.
Bill Clinton, the Democrat re-elected before Obama, began his second term with a 59 percent approval rating, Pew said.
Obama's immediate predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, was the only president with a lower approval rating at the start of his second term -- 50 percent in January 2005.
Results are based on nationwide phone interviews with 1,502 adults conducted Jan. 9-13. The margin of error is 2.9 percentage points.
The poll conducted for The Hill by Pulse Opinion Research indicates 42 percent of voters say they are worse off now than when Obama first took office while 26 percent say they are better off, the Washington publication said Friday.
Looking ahead, 60 percent say they do not expect major economic strides during Obama's second term; 38 percent said they expect to be better off, results indicated.
Voters in The Hill poll were split on whether Obama should focus on jobs and the economy or government spending and debt. Thirty-eight percent said Obama should focus on the economy while 39 percent said he should hone in on the debt and deficits.
Results are based on a nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters Wednesday. A margin of error was not provided.