A 57 percent majority of Americans see Obama’s political views as liberal, compared with 23 percent who see him as a moderate and 15 percent as conservative, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday.

Those surveyed rated themselves and the 2012 candidates along a five-point scale from very liberal to very conservative. The result? Republican challengers are seen by the public as more in line with their own ideology than Obama, though Obama continues to tie or lead other candidates in polls for the 2012 election.

A separate Pew Research Center poll finds “progressive” ranking as the most popular political buzz-word, with 67 percent rating it positively. “Conservative” is ranked second at 62 percent positive, “liberal” and “capitalism” are seen positively by half the public while fewer than a third rate “socialism” positively. Indeed, majorities of nearly every political group hold a negative view of socialism, including 52 percent of Occupy Wall Street supporters.

Obama strong among Hispanics in 2012

President Obama holds a commanding 45-point lead over Mitt Romney among Hispanics nationally in a hypothetical 2012 match-up, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Pew Hispanic Center. That margin exceeds Obama’s record 36-point victory over John McCain among Hispanics, the fast-growing voting bloc, in 2008 exit polls . As the Post’s Peter Wallsten reports, Obama’s edge is significant “even as widespread opposition to his administration’s stepped-up deportation policies act as a drag on his approval ratings” among Hispanics.

A separate Pew poll in early November found Newt Gingrich cutting into Obama’s lead among Hispanics, with Obama leading 61 percent to 36 percent, though the sample size was small and the error margin high.

Obama’s job approval rating stands at 60 percent among Hispanics in the latest Gallup data, up from earlier this fall. By contrast, Hispanics disapproved of Obama’s handling of deportations by more than 2 to 1 in the Pew survey.

Part of the reason Obama is not paying a huge price among Hispanics for his deportation policies may be awareness. Just over four in 10 Latinos recognized that the Obama administration is deporting more illegal immigrants than the Bush administration, and the number dips to one in three among registered voters. Disapproval of Obama on deportations also peaks among Hispanics who are ineligible to vote (those who lack citizenship or a green card). Additionally, while more than nine in 10 Hispanic voters say jobs and education are important issues in 2012, a smaller seven in 10 say the same about immigration.

Hispanics look to play a more important role in the election than ever before: Pew estimates that nearly 21.7 million Hispanics are eligible to vote in 2012, up from 19.5 million in 2008 and 16.1 million in 2004.

Iowa caucus roundup

Newt Gingrich’s support has been more than sliced in half in Iowa since the beginning of December, according to a pair of newly released polls, with Mitt Romney and Ron Paul now leading the race and Rick Santorum rising.

Gingrich took particularly strong hits in the CNN poll among wealthier Republicans, tea party supporters, college grads and conservatives. See yesterday’s Behind the Numbers post for a more detailed breakdown.

A PPP poll (D) conducted without live interviewers finds Paul with 24 percent and Romney at 20 percent, with Gingrich at 13 percent and Santorum 10 percent. Gingrich’s support is down from 27 percent in early December.

Despite Paul’s strong standing in both polls, more than four in 10 Republicans in the CNN poll say they “would not consider” supporting him for the GOP nomination, 10 points higher than say this of Mitt Romney.

The Des Moines Register will release its final pre-caucus poll on Saturday at 7 p.m., providing one of the last good looks at who will win the first contest in the GOP nomination race.

Poll wonk note: Two methodological quirks in the new CNN and PPP polls may be working to underestimate Paul’s support. First, neither poll dialed cell phone-only adults, who made up 29 percent of Iowans in estimates from 2009 and 2010 (pdf) and about a quarter of potential caucus-goers in an early December Washington Post-ABC News poll. In that poll, Paul earned 21 percent among potential caucus-goers who were reachable only by cell phone and 14 percent among those with landlines in their household.

Second, CNN polled registered Republicans but not independents and Democrats who might participate by registering as Republicans before caucus day. Non-Republicans made up 17 percent of potential caucus-goers in the December Post-ABC poll, with Ron Paul performing about twice as well among this group than registered Republicans.

Also, Mark Blumenthal of the Huffington Post provides a thorough detailing of discrepancies between CNN and PPP Iowa polls, noting that CNN polls have consistently found higher support for Romney than others, while they have differed less in their estimates for Paul.

Romney (still) holds commanding lead in N.H.

A second CNN poll (pdf) of likely primary voters in New Hampshire finds Mitt Romney with a commanding 44 percent support, compared with 17 and 16 percent for Gingrich and Paul, respectively. Jon Huntsman scores 9 percent in the Granite State, better than his numbers in Iowa (1 percent in CNN, 4 percent in PPP). Romney’s lead was nearly as large in a mid-December Boston Globe poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.

Americans upbeat on 2012

To more than half of Americans -- 54 percent -- 2011 was a bad year for the country; 13 percent say it was a good year and one third say it was neither good nor bad, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Thursday. Despite the sour taste, more than six in 10  say they are optimistic about what 2012 will bring for the nation, and nearly eight in 10 are positive about their own lives. Read the full poll results here (pdf).

More from the Post polling team

Sign up for Post polling e-mails

Follow Post polling on Twitter

Like Post Politics on Facebook