Washington (CNN) - The public is split right down the middle on whether President Barack Obama should be re-elected and a majority of Americans predict he will be a one-term president, according to a new national poll.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates that if the 2012 presidential election were held today, 47 percent of registered voters would back Obama, with an equal amount supporting an unnamed Republican challenger. Fifty-four percent of people questioned say Obama will lose if he runs for re-election in 2012, with 44 percent saying the president would win a second term.
"That may sound like a bad position to start from, but note that Bill Clinton was down 15 points to an unnamed Republican in March of 1994, and wound up winning the election two years later," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
The poll indicates that the gender and generation gaps that we saw in the 2008 election have not disappeared.
"Obama has a nine-point advantage among younger voters and an eight-point edge among women, but he loses among men and older voters," Holland said. "Independents currently favor the Republican by 11 points."
More than three out of four Democrats questioned say they want Obama re-nominated in 2012. Back in 1994 only 57 percent of Democrats said they wanted Clinton renominated.
"Historically speaking, support from Democrats is crucial to Obama's re-election chances - not just in the primaries, but in the general election as well," adds Holland. "No incumbent facing a significant challenger in his party's primaries has gone on to win re election; some political junkies believe that a primary fight would guarantee an Obama loss in 2012. But support from three quarters of all Democrats may help Obama scare off any serious challenger in 2012, significantly helping his chances in the general election."
On the GOP side, it's impossible to say who the frontrunner currently is, with three potential candidates - Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee - bunched together at the front of the pack within a few points of each other. 22 percent of Republicans want to see Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 GOP White House hopeful, get the GOP nomination; Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, wins support from 18 percent of GOPers and former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee comes in at 17 percent.. All other Republicans tested were in single digits.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted March 19-21, with 1,030 adult Americans, including 531 Republicans and independents who lean Republican, and 448 Democrats and independents who Democratic, questioned by telephone. The poll's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report