Washington: US President Barack Obama's overall popularity has slipped to a new low but his approval ratings are still ahead of current Republican frontrunner Newt Gingrich, a poll showed on Wednesday.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll said the "unfavourable" views of Obama hit 49 percent, the highest of his presidency, while 48 percent viewed him favorably.

It was the first time the unfavourable rating had topped the favourable number in the most basic measure of popularity, the survey indicated.

Despite these ratings, Obama is still viewed in a more positive light than Gingrich, who is leading the Republican pack to challenge the Democratic president in November 2012.

The former House speaker's unfavourable rating is essentially the same as Obama's at 48 percent, but his favourable score is only 35 percent.

Additionally, the poll showed 23 percent see Obama "strongly" favourably, Gingrich's core group of strong supporters is just half as large, 12 percent.

The telephone survey conducted by Langer Research from December 7-11 interviewed a random sample of 1,012 adults and has a margin of error of 3.5 points.

Gingrich has 40 percent support among likely Republican voters nationwide, far ahead of the 23 percent support for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, according to a separate Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this week.