obama (smiling)*Public opposition to the new health care law has eased in the past month, enough to help level off Barack Obama’s falling popularity – but not to turn it around.

Fifty-five percent of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll disapprove of the president’s job performance overall, unchanged from last month’s reading as the worst of his career. Forty-three percent approve, a scant percentage point from 42 percent in November.

Better for the president is an easing of opposition to the Affordable Care Act, with attitudes back to a close division on the law; 46 percent of Americans support it, with 49 percent opposed. Opposition is down from a record 57 percent last month amid the new system’s troubled rollout.

The ACA’s impact to date on Americans’ perceptions of the quality of their health care, coverage and costs is less negative than many anticipated when it was signed into law. But while 37 percent in 2010 expected the law to improve the health care system overall, just 19 percent now say it’s actually done so. And far more, 47 percent, say it’s made things worse.

Many Republicans reportedly plan to make criticism of the ACA a centerpiece of their midterm election campaigns, and the approach shows promise. 2014 election preferences have tightened essentially to a dead heat, with 47 percent of registered voters now supporting the Democratic candidate in their congressional district vs. 45 percent for the Republican. That compares with an 8-point Democratic lead in October, just after the unpopular, GOP-inspired partial government shutdown and just before the HealthCare.gov meltdown.

Moreover, among registered voters who oppose the health care law – in general, no fans of the Obama administration – midterm preferences stand at 64-26 percent in favor of GOP candidates.

obama christmas

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia (left) and Sasha pose with “elves” prior to the taping of TNT’s “Christmas in Washington” on December 15, 2013 in Washington, DC.