Ed Andrieski, Associated Press
ln this May 13, 2011 photo, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper stands in front of a photo of a tiger as he waits to sign a bill into law at Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Colo.

DENVER — Just 45 percent of Colorado voters want Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper re-elected, and half disapprove of his stance on new gun laws and the death penalty after his refusal to set an execution date for a convicted mass murderer, according to a poll released Friday.

The Quinnipiac (KWIHN'-uh-pee-ak) University poll released Friday puts Hickenlooper's approval rating at 48 percent, and he's statistically tied with potential Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, who's known mostly for his tough position on immigration. Hickenlooper leads the former congressman 46 percent to 45 percent in the 2014 race, within the poll's margin of error.

The poll also provides a preview of the 2016 presidential race here, presenting Colorado once again as a battleground state with Democratic former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton deadlocked with Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie if both were to run.

Friday's numbers underscore the fact that Hickenlooper is going through one of the most tumultuous times in his political career, after years of popularity dating back to his time as Denver mayor.

Two of his biggest challenges came in the past six months. He signed new gun laws in March, including more background checks and limits on ammunition magazine sizes. Then in May he granted an indefinite stay of execution to Nathan Dunlap, who killed four people at a Chuck E. Cheese in 1993.

Both decisions played badly with potential voters, according to the poll. Forty-eight percent of voters polled disapprove of how he's handled the death penalty, while 26 percent approve. On gun policy, 52 percent disapprove of him, while 35 percent approve.

"Gov. Hickenlooper has gone against popular opinion on the death penalty and gun control, but he is doing better on that bread-and-butter issue — the economy. Let's see how that plays out in the next 14 months," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

But even in what's supposed to be a bright spot, Hickenlooper's numbers aren't high. Fifty percent of poll participants approve of Hickenlooper's handling of the economy.

The poll of 1,184 registered voters was taken from Aug. 15-21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The poll was conducted through live interviews by cellphones and land lines.

Against other potential Republican gubernatorial candidates, Hickenlooper leads Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler 47 percent to 42 percent, and state Sen. Greg Brophy 47 percent to 40 percent. Brophy has announced his candidacy but Gessler has not.

On the 2016 presidential race, possible candidates Clinton and Christie are tied at 42 percent. Against Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Clinton leads 46 percent to 41 percent.

Both Christie and Cruz are ahead of Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is behind Christie 49 percent to 33 percent and Cruz 45 percent to 39 percent.

Colorado voters were not asked about Hickenlooper as a possible presidential contender.

Find Ivan Moreno on Twitter: http://twitter.com/IvanJourno