[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/17/art.obamawp3.gi.jpg caption="As 2009 comes to an end, about half of the country is giving President Barack Obama a thumbs up."]
Washington (CNN) - As 2009 comes to an end, about half of the country is giving President Barack Obama a thumbs-up.
According to a CNN Poll of Polls compiled and released Thursday, Obama's approval rating in polls taken in the past week averages out to 50 percent, with 44 percent saying they disapprove.
"Obama's average approval rating was at 52 percent or 53 percent every week from early October to mid-November. Each week since then, his average approval rating has been between 48 percent and 50 percent," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The bad news for the White House is that his current rating is down by roughly 15 points since the start of the year. The good news is that it appears to have stabilized as the end of the year approaches."
Since scientific polling began more than seven decades ago, only one popularly-elected president has ended his first calendar year in office with an approval rating below 50 percent.
Ronald Reagan's approval rating dipped to 49 percent in December 1981, and stayed below 50 percent for two years - but he won re-election in a landslide, says Holland. By contrast, Jimmy Carter and the elder George Bush had approval ratings well over 50 percent in December of their first year in the White House, but lost their re-election bids. "So the first-year approval ratings don't appear to have any predictive value when it comes to re-election prospects," said Holland.
The CNN Poll of Polls on how Obama is handling his job overall consists of an average of six surveys conducted within the last week: NBC/Wall Street Journal (Dec. 11-14), the Gallup tracking (Dec. 13-15), AP/GfK (Dec. 10-14), ABC/Washington Post (Dec. 10-13), Pew (Dec. 9-13), and Fox (Dec. 8-9). The Poll of Polls does not have a sampling error.
Four of the six surveys in the overall Poll of Polls also asked about the president's handling of the economy, the number one issue on the minds of Americans. According to an average of those four polls, 45 percent approve of how Obama's dealing with the economy, while half of the public disapproves.
Four of the six surveys also asked about Afghanistan. According to the CNN Poll of Polls, 50 percent, on average, approve of how Obama's handling that conflict, with 43 percent disapproving.
Three of the surveys asked how the president's dealing with health care reform. According to the CNN Poll of Polls, 44 percent approve of Obama's handling of health care, with 51 percent giving him a thumbs down.
The president's approval drops even lower for the budget deficit. Three of the surveys asked about the deficit, and the CNN Poll of Polls indicates 37 percent approve of Obama's handling of the issue, with 54 percent disapproving.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn