WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama faces uncertain prospects for re-election in 2012 as many voters question whether he deserves a second term, a new poll said on Monday.
The Quinnipiac University poll said American voters by 49 percent to 43 percent do not think Obama has earned a second four-year term, and they put him in a statistical dead heat with potential Republican challengers Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.
Obama has struggled to bring down the stubbornly high U.S. jobless rate of 9.6 percent and his Democrats sustained huge losses in November 2 congressional elections.
At this point, Obama leads possible Republican challenger Sarah Palin by 48 percent to 40 percent, the poll found.
Romney is a former governor of Massachusetts, Huckabee was governor of Arkansas and Palin was governor of Alaska and her party's 2008 vice presidential nominee.
Democratic voters say by 64 percent to 27 percent that they do not want anyone to challenge Obama for their party's nomination in 2012.
"The Democratic base remains squarely behind Obama when it comes to his re-election, but his weakness among independent voters at this point makes his 2012 election prospects uncertain," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The poll found only 39 percent of men, 34 percent of whites, 35 percent of political independents and 38 percent of those over age 35 think Obama deserves re-election.
In trial heats for 2012, Romney receives 45 percent to 44 percent for Obama, while the president gets 46 percent to 44 percent for Huckabee.
Palin is viewed the most negatively of the possible Republican candidates in 2012. She is viewed unfavorably by 51 percent of voters and favorably by 36 percent.
Brown said that "virtually all voters have formed an opinion about Palin and that opinion is not encouraging for her candidacy."
In a mythical Republican primary, Palin gets 19 percent, including 25 percent of Republican women, followed by Romney with 18 percent, Huckabee at 17 percent, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich at 15 percent and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty at 6 percent.
"The best thing Obama has going for him when it comes to his re-election may be that at this point the Republicans don't have a candidate who is both nationally well-known and well-liked by a majority of voters," said Brown.
Quinnipiac University conducted the poll November 8-15, surveying 2,424 registered voters nationwide by telephone. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Doina Chiacu