Washington (CNN) - A new national poll shows an improvement in how Americans see the direction of the country, and puts President Obama in better standing against potential 2012 rivals.
The McClatchy Newspapers-Marist poll said still just 41 percent of respondents think the country is headed in the right direction, with 47 saying it remains going in the wrong direction. But that compares to a Marist poll in December where 34 percent of Americans said right direction, and 58 said wrong direction
The poll showed President Obama now holding a 51-38 percent lead over Mitt Romney in a hypothetical 2012 match-up. In their December survey, Romney was leading Obama 46-44 percent.
The Marist poll has Obama up 50-38 percent on Mike Huckabee, up from a 47-43 percent lead a month ago. And the survey has Obama ahead by 26 points over Sarah Palin, 56-30 percent. He led Palin by a narrower 52-40 percent margin in the December poll.
The poll indicates Obama leads the potential GOP challengers among independent voters, by 10 points over Romney, 5 over Huckabee, and 28 over Palin.
Marist's survey puts President Obama's approval rating now at 48 percent, up from 42 percent a month ago. 43 percent in this poll disapprove of the president, down from 50 percent in December.
These numbers are from a January 6-10th poll of 1,018 adults, with a 3 percent margin of error for the main numbers. These numbers are before the president's address at the memorial for the Tucson shooting and the controversy over Palin's video comments.