Washington (CNN) - Democrats are divided on whether President Barack Obama should face a primary challenge in the next presidential election, according to a new national poll.
A McClatchy-Marist survey released Wednesday also indicates that Obama would come out on top in a very hypothetical three way 2012 general election matchup against former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the GOP nominee and New York City Michael Bloomberg as an independent candidate. And according to the poll, only 36 percent say they would definitely vote to re-elect Obama.
Forty-six percent of Democrats and Democratic leaning independent voters questioned in the survey say they don't want the president to face a Democratic primary challenge, with 45 percent saying they do want such a challenge to occur, with nine percent unsure.
Four out of ten Democrats and independents who lean towards the Democrats say they prefer a more conservative challenger, while 39 percent say they want a challenger who is more liberal.
"Interestingly, a plurality of Democrats – 42 percent – would like to see a more liberal challenger while half of Democratic leaning independents – 50 percent – would like to see a more conservative one," says the release by the Marist poll.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted at the end of October, nearly three out of four Democrats and independents who lean towards the Democrats prefer Obama as their party's 2012 presidential nominee, with 22 percent preferring another Democrat.
The McClatchy-Marist poll indicates that 48 percent of registered voters nationwide plan to vote against the president in 2012, with 36 percent saying they'll vote to re-elect Obama and 15 percent undecided at this very early date in the next election cycle.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Monday indicates that a plurality of Americans don't think Obama deserves to be re-elected to a second term in the White House, and an Associated Press-GfK survey released 11 days ago indicated that 54 percent thought Obama should be voted out of office in 2012. To be fair, all of these surveys have been conducted in the days and weeks following major Republican victories in the midterm elections.
According to the McClatchy-Marist poll, 50 percent of independent voters say they won't support Obama in a bid for re-election, with three in ten saying they plan to vote for the president in 2012 and one in five undecided.
"As the electoral page turns from the midterms to 2012, President Obama starts off, not surprisingly, in a somewhat tenuous position," says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.
Looking ahead to 2012, the Marist survey appears to be the first to ask about a very hypothetical Obama-Palin-Bloomberg showdown, with 45 percent of registered voters saying they would back Obama, 31 percent supporting Palin and 15 percent casting a ballot for Bloomberg, with nine percent undecided.
According to the survey, six in ten say they don't want the New York City mayor to run for the White House, with 12 percent saying they'd like Bloomberg to take the plunge into presidential politics and more than a quarter unsure.
The poll indicates that in a hypothetical battle for the GOP presidential nomination, one in five Republicans and Republican leaning independents say they would support former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with 16 percent backing former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 13 supporting Palin, one in ten backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and everyone else in single digits.
The McClatchy-Marist survey is in line with numerous other polls that suggest that there's no single front-runner in upcoming battle for the Republican Party's presidential nomination.
The McClatch-Marist poll was conducted November 15-18, with 1,020 adults nationwide, including 810 registered voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for registered voters.
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN