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Obama heads into second term with low job approval ratings

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President Barack Obama began his second term in office Jan. 20 with one of the lowest approval ratings among the 12 U.S. presidents since World War II.

Obama's average approval rating over the past four years is 49.1 percent, higher than only Gerald Ford, a Republican, and Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, according to Gallup. Obama's first term was most similar to that of Bill Clinton, also a Democrat, who averaged an approval rating of 49.6 percent during his first four years.

Gallup blames the economy for Obama's low numbers, noting that both Clinton and Republican Ronald Reagan saw their numbers improve during their second terms as the economy improved.

Pew Research pointed out, however, that Obama began his second term with a job approval rating of 52 percent, among the highest since the early months of his presidency. Pew says one reason Obama's overall rating averages so low could be because of political polarization. According to past Pew studies, most Americans view Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as unfavorable.

Voters have an overall positive impression of Obama as a person, according to Pew. Their survey found 82 percent of respondents say Obama stands up for what he believes in, up from 72 percent last year. Nearly 60 percent say Obama is able to get things done, up 11 points from last year, and 59 percent say he is a strong leader, up from seven points in 2012.

"Nonetheless, these personal ratings are all far lower than they were shortly after he took office four years ago," Pew points out. "A few weeks after his inauguration, 70 percent said he was able to get things done and even higher percentages gave him positive ratings for other attributes."

Gallup points out that Obama's first term was difficult and that's one reason his approval ratings are on average lower than most of his predecessors. But the road ahead isn't a smooth one.

"Still dealing with a fragile economy, Obama faces other daunting challenges in his second term, including the mounting federal budget deficit and the continuing need to find ways to reduce federal spending, something he and the Republicans have failed to make significant progress on over the last two years," according to Gallup. "He has made legislation to reduce gun violence a high priority and has expressed a desire to pass comprehensive immigration and energy reform."

But, Gallup says, Obama will have to work with a "deeply divided Congress." That bipartisanship and the economy will be major factors in determining the public support the president receives in his second term.