CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.
(CBS News) President Obama's approval rating has hit the lowest level ever in CBS News polling, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times survey. The drop may be partially attributable to rising gas prices.
Just 41 percent of Americans approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president, according to the poll, conducted from March 7 to 11. Another 47 percent disapprove of his performance, up from 41 percent last month.
Mr. Obama's approval rating was 50 percent last month.
The average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline has jumped 12 cents over the past two weeks. The poll found that most Americans, 54 percent, believe gas prices are something a president can do a lot about.
Americans have historically felt that a president can control gas prices, though experts attribute changes to a variety of factors, many outside of a president's control. They also felt this way when gas prices spiked during the administration of former President George W. Bush.
When asked Tuesday by CBS Pittsburgh affiliate KDKA whether he can impact gas prices, Mr. Obama said, "Understandably people are frustrated when gas prices are going up, and there are things we can do, but they're not going to result, provide results overnight."
The president noted that the U.S. has reduced its dependence on foreign oil under his administration and that fuel efficiency standards for cars are being raised. The administration is exploring other ways to reduce prices, but Mr. Obama said the biggest contributor to the current high prices is rumors of war in the Middle East.
"Which is part of the reason I said a couple weeks ago let's stop with the loose talk about war," he said. "Because a lot of what's driving this is people's concern and fear that there might be major disruptions in the Middle East oil markets."
Attacks from the Republicans running to replace Mr. Obama may be having an impact on his approval rating as well. His disapproval rating has risen to 89 percent among Republicans (from 82 percent last month), and more independents now disapprove of his job performance than approve. Though Mr. Obama's approval rating among Democrats remains high, it has dropped seven points - from 85 percent last month to 78 percent today.
Of the four remaining GOP candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has hit Mr. Obama particularly hard on high gas prices, promising on the campaign trail to bring down the price to $2.50.
Jim Ritterbusch, president of an oil trading advisory firm, told CBS News there are no quick fixes.
"It's become somewhat of a political football," Ritterbusch said. "But none of the candidates or the current president can flip a switch and drive gas prices down to $3 a gallon."
Mr. Obama's job rating on the economy remains about the same as it was last month - 39 percent approve, while 54 percent disapprove.
The economy and jobs remains the most important problem facing the country today, according to 51 percent of Americans. Three in four Americans think the economy is at least somewhat bad, including 30 percent who say it is very bad.
More Americans, 30 percent, say the economy is getting better; 24 percent say it is getting worse. The public's economic outlook was slightly better last month, when 34 percent said the economy was getting better.
Just 20 percent of Americans feel their family's financial situation is better today than it was four years ago. Another 37 percent say it is worse, and 43 percent say it is about the same.
While his rating on the economy is about the same as last month, Mr. Obama's rating on foreign policy has dropped 10 points. Now, just 40 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy, while 41 percent disapprove. This is the first time since the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 that more Americans disapprove than approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing handling foreign policy.
Amid speculation that Israel may consider attacking Iran to stop its nuclear ambitions, Americans are split on the president's handling of the situation in Iran: 42 percent approve, while nearly as many - 39 percent - disapprove. Nineteen percent don't know.
CBS Radio News' Rob Mank contributed to this report.
This poll was conducted by telephone from March 7-11, 2012 among 1009 adults nationwide.
878 interviews were conducted with registered voters, including 301 with voters who said they plan to vote in a Republican primary. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The margin of error for the sample of registered voters could be plus or minus three points and six points for the sample of Republican primary voters. The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.