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Obama Poll Ratings Strong Despite Weak Economy

The U.S. jobless rate rose to 9.5 percent last month -- the highest figure in 26 years. In the short term, the jobs report is a political setback for President Barack Obama and his economic policies. But the latest opinion polls suggest the president continues to hold public support despite the weak economy.

President Obama acknowledged the disappointing jobs report at the White House, but quickly urged Americans to be patient as the country waits for the economy to improve.

"As I've said from the moment I walked into the door of this White House, it took years for us to get into this mess and it will take us more than a few months to turn it around," he said.

The modest increase in unemployment was higher than most experts had predicted, says economist Stuart Hoffman.

"The job market is still weak; it is still tough to find a job. Layoffs have slowed down. Not as many people are getting laid off, but there is still very little hiring," said Hoffman.

Despite the struggling economy, Mr. Obama can take a measure of solace from recent public opinion polls.

The latest survey from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut shows the public, for the most part, is staying behind the president despite the weak economy.

"What we have found is that President Obama is still quite popular with the American people. He has a 57 percent job approval rating, which is quite healthy. It's down a little bit since when he took office, obviously, but that is not terribly surprising," said Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown.

In other recent polls, Mr. Obama's approval rating ranges from 56-65 percent, with disapproval ranging from 31-37 percent.

Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown says his latest survey suggests that a number of people who had been reserving judgment about the president now disapprove of his job performance, in part because the economy remains sluggish.

Brown says the president's approval ratings have dropped by 8-10 points among some key voting groups since the last poll in early June.

"And these are people and groups that disproportionately did not vote for him in November. We are talking about men, Republicans, evangelical white Christians and white Catholics. And so these people, who you would expect to not be supporters of the president based on history, have been giving him a tryout, so to speak, in their minds and they have decided he is not their cup of tea," he said.

Opposition Republicans are taking some of the credit for that drop in support for the president, and for growing public concern about the national debt and deficit spending.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says the latest jobs report proves that the president's stimulus plan is not bringing about economic recovery.

It is a theme Republicans like House of Representatives Minority leader John Boehner have been sounding for weeks.

"I think the question is: where are the jobs? We all remember the trillion dollar stimulus bill. Democrats promised it would be about jobs, jobs and jobs. And clearly, all it has turned into is about spending, spending and more spending," he said.

Republicans also have been arguing that it is time that voters hold President Obama responsible for the weak economy and stop blaming his predecessor, former President George Bush.

But pollster Peter Brown says that so far, Americans still seem to think the bulk of the responsibility for the economy rests with Mr. Bush, not President Obama.

"So far, he seems to be able to convince the American people that the economic problems they are facing were not his fault, but the result of his predecessor, and that is why his job approval rating is so high. When people start blaming the economic conditions on him, his job numbers will come down," said Brown.

The president faces another important domestic test beginning July 13, when the Senate Judiciary Committee opens confirmation hearings for his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Sotomayor was nominated to replace recently retired Justice David Souter. If confirmed, she would become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court and only the third woman to serve on the high court.