"Unemployment needs to drop below 8 percent for the president to be able to say things are headed in the right direction and that he deserves credit for the economic turnaround," said Darrell M. West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution of the voters' primary concern this election season.
And with a jobless rate of 8.1 percent, many Americans are not thrilled about the way the president has handled the economy.
Still, a Gallup poll released on Tuesday found that economic confidence surpassed a major barrier last week, passing -17 for the first time in the four-plus years of Gallup Daily tracking in the U.S. The index now stands at -16 for the week ending May 20, up from -18 in each of the prior two weeks in May, and from -21 in late April.
But despite the gains, the index remains in negative territory. Forty-three percent say the economy is getting better and 52 percent say it is getting worse amid slowing economic progress in recent months.
Without markedly improved real-world economic news, such as a solid May unemployment report, which is due out next month, it is unclear what could help jump-start another rally in confidence, Gallup said.
John Fortier, director of the democracy project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said while it is not too late for Obama to change the opinions of voters regarding the economy's health, time is running out.