Barack Obama Year in Office: the Racial Divide

One year after America congratulated itself on electing the country's first black president, it seems white voters have been much quicker than blacks to lose patience with Barack Obama's policies.

While Obama's overall approval rating remains strong, polls and recent elections suggest he has stumbled significantly among white voters.

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Republican pundit Pat Buchanan has used Obama's slipping poll numbers and major Democratic election losses in three states to bolster his claim that Obama has alienated white voters, particularly with his massive health care reform bill. Buchanan argued that health care in particular is seen by white voters as benefiting minorities and immigrants .

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, his job approval rating, though 53 percent overall, slipped to just 44 percent among whites surveyed.

Andy Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, which put out similar approval ratings, said their research shows Obama's dip in approval among whites has nothing to do with the color of his skin.

"Obama is not being judged through the prism of race by white voters," Kohut told "It's because, 'Hey, I don't like what he's doing.'"

Democratic presidents have historically had a more difficult time holding on to white voters, the majority of whom identify themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning Independents. Minorities are heavily Democrat.

Leaders in the black community rejected Buchanan's analysis, dismissing him as part of the fringe right who will never see past Obama's race.

"I think that is Pat Buchanan's attempt to racialize the one-year anniversary as well as the mid-term elections," the Rev. Al Sharpton told "My counsel to the black community and to the president is don't go to the bait."

Obama has already attempted to make concessions in his approach to health care in light of the Democrats' shocking loss of the Massachusetts' Senate seat to Republican Scott Brown. And he hired former campaign manager David Plouffe to get his agenda back on track.

Sharpton said Obama has not given the black community any special treatment and pointed out that the president has yet to pass one bill directed at helping the black community.

"Even at his height, there was always a gap between how he polled" between the races, Sharpton said. "There's no evidence at all of the president trying to curry favor with blacks."

Despite slipping poll numbers among whites, surveys find that a relatively low percentages of voters of any race believe Obama is favoring a black agenda. According to the recent Pew Research Center poll, 13 percent of whites and Hispanics and 1 percent of blacks said they believe he's paying too much attention to the concerns of the black community.

Simply holding the highest office in the nation is what's largely buoying Obama's staggeringly high ratings among blacks -- 96 percent for job approval, 92 percent for favorability, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll -- even as the community is disproportionately affected by a lack of health care insurance, foreclosure and job loss.

Sharpton called Obama's sky-high poll numbers among blacks the result of "natural pride." Kohut called it unprecedented loyalty.

"We're willing to give him more time," Sharpton said. "I think that what he's done is said to the black community is that he will help them as he helps America. He's made a point not to single out blacks."

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