Independent voters, who helped propel U.S. President Barack Obama to victory in the 2008 election, could be an obstacle in his bid for a second term in the White House, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll published on Wednesday.

A majority of independent voters have soured on Obama's presidency, disapprove of his handling of the economy and do not have a clear idea of what he hopes to accomplish if re-elected, the Times reported.

Only 31 percent of independent voters have a favourable opinion of the president and two-thirds say he has not made real progress in fixing the economy, the newspaper said.

In 2008, Obama won support from 52 percent of independent voters, compared with 44 percent who supported Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

Nearly half of independents say they have not formed an opinion of Mitt Romney, the front-runner in the Republican race for the nomination to challenge Obama in the November general election, the survey found.

Among all voters, 38 percent view Obama favourably, 45 percent unfavourably and 17 percent have no opinion, the survey showed. Voters were evenly divided in a matchup between Obama and Romney, but Obama fared better against other Republican candidates, the Times said

Looking at the Republican race, the poll suggests voters are not satisfied with the crop of candidates vying for the right to challenge Obama, the Times reported. Nearly 7 in 10 Republican voters said they want more choices.

The national telephone poll of 1,154, including 1,021 registered voters, was conducted January 12-January 17 and had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

(Reporting By JoAnne Allen; editing by Todd Eastham)