Gallup finds Obama approval rating rising for third straight quarter

President Obama's job approval has steadily edged up in recent months and now significantly outpaces that of Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush — the two most recent incumbents to be denied a second term — although the president remains below the crucial 50 percent threshold.

The president averaged a 46.8 percent approval rating in Gallup's tracking poll over the 14th quarter of his presidency — the third straight quarter that the president's approval numbers have increased, and his highest in a year.

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"The recent and continuing improvement in his approval rating, though, is a positive sign for his reelection prospects, but it remains below the 50 percent level that virtually assures a president of a second term in office," said Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones in a release. "Obama appears in much better shape now than the two recently elected presidents who were denied a second term — Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush — both of whom averaged below 40 percent approval their 14th quarters in office."

Jimmy Carter averaged a 35.8 percent approval rating in the 14th quarter of his presidency, while George H.W. Bush averaged a 39.2 percent approval rating. Obama's numbers most similarly reflect those of George W. Bush at a similar time in his presidency.

It could be tough for Obama to dramatically change perceptions before Election Day, with no president adding more than 2 points or losing more than 4 in job approval over the months immediately preceding the election.

But the president will need to keep his numbers at least steady to have a good shot at reelection.

"If Obama's standing among the public, as measured by his job approval rating, improves in the coming months, he will be in a stronger position for reelection. But if his approval rating declines, a second Obama term would be very much in doubt," said Jones.