The worst economy in decades has taken a toll on the popularity of U.S. President Barack Obama, although he still has time to bolster his poll numbers before the 2012 elections, U.S. experts said Thursday.
"Obama still has time to turn things around but voters have to be convinced that things have turned in a better direction and that the president is fighting for them," said Darrell M. West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
The bad economy means Obama will face a competitive race regardless of who the opponent is. Voters are unhappy with the status quo and looking for other options, as three-quarters of Americans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, he said.
Indeed, according to a Gallup poll released on Wednesday, 77 percent of Americans believe the economy is no better now than a year ago, and 61 percent do not foresee improvement over the next year.
That bodes ill for the president, as Americans typically put the economy at the top of their list of important issues by which to judge the president.
Americans have become less optimistic about an economic recovery over the past two years, and 80 percent believe the country is currently in a recession, the poll found, even though the current situation does not meet the technical definition of a downturn, which is two consecutive quarters of negative growth in gross domestic product.
Nevertheless, many companies are simply not hiring, even though many are flush with cash, and some economists contend that uncertainty in Washington is causing firms to put off taking on new employees.
Obama's numbers bad, so are his challengers
While Obama's popularity has dropped to the lowest level since he took office, his top two Republican challengers are also faring poorly, according to an ABC News/Washington Post Poll released on Wednesday.
GOP candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are far less known than Obama and face an uphill climb in efforts to make a splash among voters, the poll found. Perry is seen in a less favorable light among Americans who've formed an opinion of him, the study found.
Still, a McClatchy-Marist poll released on Wednesday found that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani would be the strongest Republican candidate if he were to run, and would beat Obama by 49 percent to 42 percent.
Dan Mahaffee with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, noted that the election is still a year away, and too much should not be read into the poll. At the same time, however, it is a warning sign for the embattled president, as poll numbers indicate the election is undecided.