By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's approval rating got a small lift after he unveiled a jobs plan last week, keeping him ahead of all potential Republican rivals in the 2012 election, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Wednesday.
The percentage of Americans who view Obama's performance favorably edged up to 47 percent in the poll conducted September 8-12. The president, a Democrat, unveiled his $447 billion job creation proposal on September 8.
Obama's approval rating was 45 percent in August and has hovered between 43 and 51 percent for more than a year.
"It's the economy," said Ipsos poll analyst Clifford Young, who said he expects Obama's ratings to stay around the mid-40's over the next several months, a level that probably would not threaten him as he seeks re-election.
"If he gets near 40 or below 40, he loses his advantage as an incumbent."
Most Americans -- 68 percent -- feel the country is on the wrong track, compared with just 25 percent who feel the country is headed in the right direction, the poll found. That was down slightly from the 73 percent who thought the economy was headed the wrong way in August.
Despite pessimism among voters about the economy -- the top issue in the campaign -- Americans rank Obama above all of the candidates vying to be the Republican nominee to run for president in November 2012.
The survey gave Obama the smallest advantage over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, now running second to Texas Governor Rick Perry in national polls.
If the election were held today and Romney were his opponent, Obama would be the choice of 49 percent of registered voters surveyed, versus 43 percent for Romney. Among all voters surveyed, Obama's advantage over Romney was larger, at 51 percent to 39 percent.
"We should definitely expect the Republican candidates to improve over time. As they become better known, they are going to move up in the polls," Young said.
Obama has an eight percentage point advantage over Perry, at 50 percent to 42 percent among registered voters. Among all adults, the result was the same as for Romney -- 51 percent backing Obama and 39 percent behind Perry.
Obama holds a strong lead over Representative Michele Bachmann, with a 54 percent to 36 percent advantage among registered voters.
Obama's approval among independents, who could be decisive in next year's elections, dropped to 42 percent from 47 percent in August.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,134 adults, including 932 registered voters, had a margin of error of 3 percentage points for all respondents and 3.1 points for registered voters.
(Editing by Kristin Roberts and Anthony Boadle)