The new rating outpaces his previous second-term high -- reached just after a Democratic convention that extolled the successes of his presidency -- by one point, and hits a level he's reached just twice since the end of his first year in office: In January 2013 just before his second inauguration and in January 2011.
The new poll continues a streak in which Obama's approval rating has been at 50% or higher in CNN/ORC polls since February, a seven month run that is his longest since 2009. And taken together, Obama's approval ratings in 2016 average 51% so far in CNN/ORC polls, his best mark since that first year in office.
A year ago at this time, Obama's approval rating was about 10 points lower than it is today. The improvement in his numbers has come across age groups and gender lines, and from all geographic regions.
There are partisan differences, however. He's up 12 points among Democrats to 89% approval and 14 among independents to 56% approval, but his numbers have barely budged among Republicans, 11% approved in September 2015 and 13% approve now.
And there's a racial gap as well, with improvement coming among whites and Hispanics, but ratings of Obama holding steady among blacks. Among whites, his approval rating remains in negative territory but has climbed from 32% a year ago to 47% now. Non-whites have held mostly steady -- 68% approved then and 70% do now.
Among black voters, 86% approve in the new poll, combining last year's data for both September and October, the number was identical among blacks a year ago. Among Hispanics, Obama's approval rating stands at 68%, up from 60% in the combined data from last fall.
And in a further measure of the education rift among whites that's been highlighted by this year's presidential race, 55% of whites with college degrees say they approve of Obama's work as president vs. just 44% of whites who do not have degrees.
Obama's approval rating is well above President George W. Bush's numbers at this point in his term in office, and about on par with Ronald Reagan's numbers at this time in 1988.
He is just a hair behind Bill Clinton's 58% measure in October 2000. Both Clinton and Reagan saw their numbers rise above 60% after their successor had been elected and the transition had begun.
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone September 28 through October 2 among a random national sample of 1,501 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for results among the full sample.