President Obama’s approval rating inched up in the latest Reason-Rupe poll, but public approval of his handling of health care remains low. 

The December Reason-Rupe national telephone poll of 1,011 Americans finds 47 percent approve of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president, up four points from our September poll, while 50 percent disapprove of his job performance. These numbers are similar to President GeorgeBush's approval ratings at a similar point in his presidency when 52 percent disapproved and 43 percent approved.

However, only 38 percent of approve of the president’s handling of health care, while 57 disapprove.

While young people under 35 remain slightly positive Obama’s general job performance (51% approve, 45% disapprove), 54 percent disapprove of how the president is handling health care, while 38 percent approve. In fact a divide emerges among young people. Those aged 25-34 who were key to Obama’s initial success in 2008, have turned particularly negative toward the president’s handling of health care: 61 percent disapprove while only 33 approve. Conversely, younger millennials, between 18-24 are evenly divided.

Under the Affordable Care Act, many expect younger Americans to pay higher premiums to subsidize the care of older, less healthy Americans. Moreover, those over 26 can no longer stay on their parents’ health insurance plans exposing more of them to premium hikes. These factors have likely fueled disapproval over health care.

Americans are feeling slightly more positive about the direction the country is heading, although the latest Reason-Rupe poll finds optimism is still quite low. Just over a third of Americans, 35 percent, believes the country is headed in the right direction, up seven points from 28 percent in Reason-Rupe's September poll.

Four out of five Americans still disapprove of the job lawmakers are doing in Congress, similar to findings in the September poll.

Neither of the two major parties is spared from voters’ strong disapproval. When asked which party, Democrats or Republicans, they would prefer have a majority in Congress after the next congressional elections, 36 percent of Americans said neither. Thirty-three percent of Americans would prefer Democrats to control Congress after the 2014 elections and 27 percent would prefer that Republicans control Congress.

Nationwide telephone poll conducted Dec 4-8 2013 interviewed 1011 adults on both mobile (506) and landline (505) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results, detailed tables, and methodology found here. Sign up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe poll here.