President Obama has pointedly refused to weigh in on what happened in Ferguson, Mo., aiming not to inflame an already delicate situation.
That approach, though, is not earning him his usual strong marks from his most loyal base of support: fellow African Americans.
A new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News shows that blacks still approve of Obama's handling of the issue by a significant margin. But the 63 percent who approve is his lowest rating on any of seven issues tested in recent months by WaPo and ABC. It's also 28 points below his overall approval rating among blacks, 91 percent in a late-October Post-ABC poll.
Further, the 30 percent of African Americans who disapprove of Obama's handling of Ferguson is an unusually high number. This demographic, after all, voted for Obama 93-6 in 2012 and 95-4 in 2008.
The poll was conducted after a grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson last week in the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, and before Obama spent much of Monday holding Ferguson-related meetings at the White House.
Obama has also urged peaceful protests and suggested the need for a conversation about race and policing, but he has otherwise not weighed in on what occurred back in August.
The relative lack of satisfaction among blacks is also evident in those who remain supportive of Obama. Just more than half of the 63 percent who approve of Obama's response to the events in Ferguson say they approve "strongly" -- 34 percent overall. That's 31 points off his overall "strong" approval and 23 points off his "strong" approval on the issues of economy (in late-October) and health care (in September polling).
A caution on all of this: These numbers come from relatively small sub-samples of African Americans -- between 97 and 145 interviews -- and are subject to higher margins of error (+/- 9 to 11 points). That renders drawing too many hard and fast conclusions difficult.
At the same time, the numbers are not that surprising and comport logically with Obama’s neutral footing. The fact that he hasn’t picked sides on the issue also means he hasn’t sided with his base – Democrats – who, both black and white, disagree strongly with the lack of an indictment. And African Americans are the most united, disapproving 85-9 of the grand jury's decision and calling for federal civil rights charges against Wilson by a margin of 85-12, according to the new poll.
But despite Obama's decision not to line up behind their cause, there has been little in the way of a backlash – save for the occasional call for more presidential involvement.
And until there's a real backlash against Obama's exceedingly cautious stance, his approval among blacks on this issue probably means less -- practically speaking -- than meets the eye.