Forty-seven percent said Obama is better equipped to handle the economy compared to 41 percent who preferred Republicans. By a slimmer margin, 44 percent to 42 percent, voters gave the edge to Obama over Republicans on handling the deficit.

The poll comes ahead of Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. Obama is expected to focus on the economy in his speech, and the Quinnipiac poll indicates that’s what voters want. A plurality, 35 percent, say the economy should be the focal point of the president’s speech, followed by the deficit at 20 percent, gun control at 15 percent and healthcare at 12 percent.

Although Obama gets higher marks from voters than his Republican counterparts, the poll shows voters' views on the economy are souring. Seventy-nine percent described it as “not so good” or “poor,” and 53 percent believe the U.S. is in a recession. Only 34 percent said the economy is getting better, compared to 28 who said it’s getting worse.

The president will also likely use his speech to warn of the dangers automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, pose to the slowly-improving economy. Forty-three percent said Congress should act to prevent the sequester, 22 percent said the cuts should be allowed to happen, and 32 said they have no opinion.

Democrats are calling for a package of spending cuts and tax revenues to replace the sequester cuts. But Republicans say that they accepted new tax revenues in the "fiscal cliff" deal and want any sequester replacement to focus on spending and entitlement reform.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked Rubio warns that election interference may ramp up around Election Day Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE (R-Fla.) will give the Republican rebuttal, and the Quinnipiac poll shows he’s still an unknown quantity outside of Washington. Twenty-seven percent said they have a positive view of the potential 2016 Republican presidential nominee versus 15 who view him negatively. Fifty-seven percent said they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion.

The Quinnipiac poll of 1,772 registered voters was conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 4; it has a 2.3 percentage point margin of error.