The new Associated Press poll of the general population shows economic pessimism rising — and confidence in Barack Obama’s economic leadership declining.  Despite a helpful sample split, Obama only gets 41% on the economy, a serious drop in confidence from the beginning of “Recovery Summer,” and a bad sign for Democrats looking a brutal midterm cycle:

President Barack Obama earned his lowest marks ever on his handling of the economy in a new Associated Press-GfKpoll, which also found that an overwhelming majority of Americans now describe the nation’s financial outlook as poor.

A frustrated electorate could take it out on the party in power — Obama’s Democrats — in the November elections.

Eleven weeks before the Nov. 2 balloting, just 41 percent of those surveyed approve of the president’s performance on the economy, down from 44 percent in April, while 56 percent disapprove. And 61 percent say the economy has gotten worse or stayed the same onObama’s watch.

As usual, the AP has some interesting results as a consequence of their sample.  When looking at the overall partisan split, the seemingly innocuous D+4 topline (43/39/5?) masks a larger split by distributing independents.  Without independent leaners, the actual sample split is 32/25 for Democrats, with 31% independents.  That +7 overstates Democratic support, which is probably why the AP gets a 49% overall approval rating for Obama (with 50% disapproving) while pollsters like Gallup find approval ratings in the low 40s instead.

Still, even with that kind of a head start, Democrats don’t do terribly well in the poll.  In the generic Congressional ballot, they lose by 4 points to the GOP, 49/45 among registered voters.  The same gap favors Republicans winning overall control of Congress, 47/43, an eleven-point swing from June’s 39/46.

The two top issues are the economy, ranked extremely or very important by 91% of respondents, and unemployment (83%).  That’s not good news for Democrats either, based on the rating Obama gets on these issues.  He only does slightly better on joblessness (43/51) than on the economy (41/56).  Obama is also underwater on the budget deficit (37/56), health care (45/53), taxes (42/50), and immigration (39/51).

When it comes to giving Obama a grade, he definitely doesn’t get a good, solid B-plus even from a Democrat-heavy sample.  Only 34% give him above-average marks, while 36% give him below-average or poor ratings, and 28% consider him “average.”  A grading scale would probably put that in the D-plus range.