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

July 29, 2009 | 10:42 am

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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