In January 2009, nearly seven in 10 Americans questioned in a CNN survey said they were thrilled or happy that Obama was about to take office. Now, according to the new, that number is down 18 points, to 50%.
Back then, six in 10 saw Obama's inauguration as a celebration by all Americans of democracy in action, with just 39% saying it was a political celebration by the supporters of the winning candidate.
Now, the numbers are nearly reversed, with 62% saying the second inauguration is a celebration by those backing the president, and 35% saying it's a celebration of democracy.
"The thrill is gone, along with the hope that the start of a new presidential term of office will bring a divided nation together," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Reality of second-term presidencies
The smaller crowd this time around reflects the reality of second-term presidencies, when the novelty and expectations of a new leader have been replaced with the familiarity and experiences of the first act.
For Obama, that difference is even sharper. His historic ascendancy to the White House in 2008 came with soaring public hopes and expectations for a new kind of governance that would close the vast partisan gulf developed in recent decades.
However, a litany of challenges, including an inherited economic recession and repeated battles with congressional Republicans over budgets and spending, only hardened the opposing positions in Washington.
Obama's signature achievements, including major reforms of the health care industry and Wall Street, became symbols of political division, with opponents constantly accusing him of hindering needed economic recovery.
For his second term, Obama has vowed to press for an overhaul of the nation's immigration policies and new ways to boost the sputtering economy, proposals that are bound to spark battles with his Republican rivals, and oversee the implementation of Obamacare.
And the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school last month put the divisive issue of gun control on his immediate agenda.
CNN polling released Sunday showed a majority of Americans -- 54% -- believe Obama will be an outstanding or above average president in his second term, while 43% said he'd be poor or below average.
And while overall, seven in 10 Americans hope the president's policies succeed, only four in 10 Republicans feel that way, with 52% hoping that Obama will fail.
But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, told CNN, "Today is the day for all of us in this country to come together."
"I think the president did a fine job, certainly, laying out what he would like to see happen as far as the future of the country," Cantor said. "There are areas of disagreement, but there are also some things fundamentally we agree on, and that is this country is one of opportunity. And sort of the way we get there to help everybody, there are some differences. Hopefully, we can bridge those differences."