President Obama’s job approval rating held steady at 43 percent for the fifth straight week, a slight improvement from the 40 to 42 percent range he was stuck in through October, according to the latest Gallup poll.

Still, the president’s approval rating remains upside down, with 49 percent saying they disapprove, also holding steady from last week.

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Obama spent the first half of the year enjoying an approval rating in the high 40 to low 50 percent range, but has been bumping along in the low 40s since August. 

According to Gallup’s historical analysis, an incumbent president needs to be around 50 percent to secure a second term.

The president’s steepest decline has been among pure independents, a group that makes up about 14 percent of the electorate and that went strongly for Obama in 2008. Obama’s approval rating with independents has dropped 10 percent since January, down from 40 percent to 30.

Independent and centrist voters will be especially important in 2012, as polls indicate that Obama will have an uphill climb in 12 key swing states he carried in 2008, when his unique and history-making campaign energized independents and propelled him into office.