By Ben Geman - 03/12/12 12:19 PM EDT
A new poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way President Obama is handling gasoline prices, a finding that could blunt the election-year political gains he's racked up on account of the brightening economic picture.
Sixty-five percent disapprove of Obama’s performance on prices at the pump, which have surged in recent weeks, while 26 percent approve and 9 percent had no opinion, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday.
Of the 59 percent who currently aren’t happy with Obama’s stewardship of the economy, 50 percent “strongly” disapprove, which is a jump of nine points and the most yet in a Post-ABC News poll, according to the survey.
The poll shows that Obama’s approval rating has dipped to 46 percent, compared to 50 percent in polling by the news outlets five weeks ago.
The survey also shows very close match-ups between Obama and the two top contenders for the GOP nomination: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
It finds that among registered voters, if the election were held today, 49 percent would vote for Romney while 47 percent would pick Obama. Against Santorum, Obama has a 49 to 46 percent edge.
The results come amid a surge in gasoline prices that’s fueling constant attacks against Obama’s energy policies from Capitol Hill Republicans and GOP White House hopefuls.
Regular gasoline prices are averaging $3.80 per gallon nationwide, according to AAA, a rise of almost 30 cents in the last month.
The increasing prices have prompted an aggressive White House effort to promote Obama’s energy policies.
The president, in a number of recent speeches, has warned there are no quick fixes to rising prices while emphasizing his support for expanded development of oil-and-gas and green energy, new fuel economy rules the administration is implementing and other steps.
Experts say Obama and Congress have few near-term options to curb prices at the pump.
But the poll results show that Obama will face challenges on energy policy more broadly — it finds that 48 percent disapprove of his handling of energy, while 38 percent approve and 14 percent had no opinion.
Obama’s increased disapproval rating on the economy — the year’s biggest political issue — comes despite evidence that the recovery is gaining momentum.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy added 227,000 jobs in February, the third straight month of increases over 200,000.
The nationwide Post-ABC News poll of 1,003 adults was conducted Wednesday through Saturday and the overall survey has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.