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Did Skip Gates comment hurt Obama's popularity? Check out these numbers

President Obama's job approval rating is down. The latest Gallup poll shows a drop of three points on the week, to 56%, the largest week-to-week slide in his young presidency and a striking fall from his high of 66% in May.

And the question is, why?

Was it the president's continuing push for healthcare reform? The White House, fearing that it's losing the message war on the issue, has now renamed it "health insurance reform" in hopes the new label will prove more popular.

Or was it his comment that the Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting his friend, Harvard black studies professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.? The comment hurt Obama's reputation as a post-racial figure in American politics and prompted the president to reach out to Sgt. James Crowley and invite him and Gates to visit the White House for a beer Thursday night.

According to Gallup's Lydia Saad, the dropoff started before the president's Gates comment, when he was pitching healthcare reform, and continued afterward. So, hard to measure there.

As for an ethnic breakdown, Obama lost no points with African Americans this past week, while losing four points with whites.

Obama's slide was more marked among Latinos, where his approval fell seven points -- even with the Senate's likely confirmation of Obama nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina to sit on the Supreme Court.

Gallup is not alone in finding a slide in Obama's popularity. The Rasmussen Report seen in the graphic above makes the same point.

And a CBS News poll released July 13, well before the Gates controversy, measured the president's approval rating at 57%. Half of Americans told CBS they think the recession will last an additional two years or more, 52% think Obama is trying to "accomplish too much," and 57% think the country is on the "wrong track."

What do you think?

-- Johanna Neuman

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Comments () | Archives (12)

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I think Bill Mahar has a point...

I think all polls should start by asking a calibration question that can be used to assess the education, intelligence and awareness of respondants.

I think the media should always publish not only the statistical standard deviations, but also the "mean callibration score" (my invention).

I think we need to interpret poll results based on the quality of the questions AND of the respondants (including factoring in the system's inability to reach most cell phone users).

I do not think surveys should discount the uneducated or narrow-minded, but I do think we need to account for polling phenomena so that we can UNDERSTAND (and thus compensate for) how the simpler kinds of minds encounter (or fail to encounter) information.

I think Obama's score is down because he is not communicating effectively with Bill Mahar's America.

The rest of us, realizing how complex and challenging conditions are, are just fine with the man.

What in the world are people thinking by nominating Obama as the President of the United States, people voting for him JUST because he's black has caused the slow racist people I have ever seen, when as a president he is supposed to be impartial, he is all about black, black, black and throw a bit of hispanic in the mix, which leaves everyother race in the dust. This man and the people who backed him needs to be fired, before any more damage is done to the US damage that may never be repaired from this incompetant , racist jerk!

A few months ago with all the positive media attention annointing Obama as our savior President, i was having second doubt for not voting for him. However events that occured these past few months including this crazy push for national healthcare, bailouts in the billions of dollars for GM and Chrysler at the expense of the taxpayers, the the big banks that took billions from taxpayers and refusing to honor Californian holding state "IOU" checks really solidify my resolve that Barack Obama is a liberal President who before his term is over will put America in such a deficit that our children and their children will be paying for it for decades to come. Also please do not forget that Joe Biden is our Vice President.

Rasmussen's biggest flaw is that they only ask if people are "extremely" satisfied or dissatisfied. At least they're consistent with this flaw.

To Philip2:
Simpler kinds of minds?

Oh, please. Perhaps people can process the information just fine, they just don't agree with it. Is this how you deal with everyone that doesn't agree with you? Must make for some boring debates. Unfortunately, it seems that both sides either villainize, trivialize or shout down the anyone that disagrees.
Sometimes good people can have an honest disagreement.



I agree with you 100%. I hope people wake up and stop this radical idiot in the white house before he take this country to the likes of his third world country Kenya.

Philip2 said:

"I think Bill Mahar has a point..."

"I do not think surveys should discount the uneducated or narrow-minded, but I do think we need to account for polling phenomena so that we can UNDERSTAND (and thus compensate for) how the simpler kinds of minds encounter (or fail to encounter) information."

"I think Obama's score is down because he is not communicating effectively with Bill Mahar's America."

When you pay attention long enough to learn how to spell 'Bill Maher', then maybe the "simpler kinds of minds" will take you seriously. Don't forget to "calibrate" yourself Phil.

So what?

52% of Americans voted for President
56% of Americans approve of the job he's doing.

Besides, the last thing I want is a President whose word and deeds are ruled by daily polls. Worse yet, Rasmussen admits that the poll results are modified to show the results from who they decide are "likely voters." So when media outlets use the polls they should let the audience know the poll is based on likely voters.

Obama is not presidential material, and has no business interferring with any police work, if anyone is racist in this country he is, and the people tha tvoted for him will soon be sorry. Think of your children, what they will have to deal with because of this man. He is just showing his power now that he got in. And the health care reform bill is a joke, that he is trying to push thru in a flash without thinking, its rediculous. The Medicare cut is horrendous, all the people that paid in all their lives so they could get care when they are older and this guy is gonna cut it bigtime, let him have the same insurance then and see what he thinks of it then, him and his family will be set for life while the rest of us that paid all our lives will be screwed.
What were you people thinking voting in this man, that has no sence of value??????

My personal approval of Obama follows this graphic pretty closely. I voted for him...His plans and platforms sounded ideal. Watching his handling of things started me doubting. Realizing that he was unrealistic about Guantanamo had me shaking my head. Pushing his healthcare reform quickly without thinking it through or doing a cost/benefit on its long-term consequences started my opinion of him slipping.

Then Gates/ Crowley. Obama used his authority and power here so wrongly, so egregiously to the nation..he used his power as a person of privilege to try to influence a municipal level incident and get his 'friend' off the hook. Obama reacted with a racist mentality, without hearing the facts or understanding the matter. And after his mistakes in knee-jerk reaction and after using his power as a person of privilege to affect the outcome for his 'friend', he made no apologies. No retractions. He abused his authority publicly, but didn't apologize publicly. (Where are his PR people?!!) You can't hide racism, it comes out just like this, in jumping to preconceived conclusions and pointing fingers and assigning blame and trying to use your power to get your friend out of trouble. Person of privilege has a new meaning, since the highest person of privilege in our country is black. And he tried to use that inappropriately, in the ways that we have always hated WHITE people of privilege to abuse their power and privilege!
If we have a racist in the white house, especially one lacking ethical balance in that he would try to use his power for personal reasons no matter the cost to the country's well-being, what hope is there for the country?


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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