President Obama's approval rating on his handling of race relations has declined by 8 percentage points in the wake of controversial police killings of black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, New York, according to a new Pew/USA Today poll.
The poll finds that 50 percent of adults disapprove of Obama's handling of race relations, while 40 percent approve. By contrast, in late August, shortly after the shooting death of Michael Brown, a black teenager, in Ferguson, 48 percent approved of Obama's handling of race, while 40 percent disapproved.
The deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Brown at the hands of white police officers sparked nationwide protests, after grand juries in both cases declined to issue indictments.
Obama has announced funding for 50,000 body cameras for police and created a task force on police relations with the public.
"Too many Americans feel deep unfairness when it comes to the gap between our professed ideals and how laws are applied on a day-to-day basis,” Obama said last week.
He has also said that "police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day," and urged protesters to be peaceful.
Obama's approval on race relations has declined the most among black people, from 73 percent to 57 percent since August. Among white people, it has declined from 42 percent to 33 percent.
Obama's body-camera proposal appears to have strong support, though. Eighty-five percent say it is a good idea for police to wear body cameras, including 90 percent of black respondents and 85 percent of white respondents.
The poll shows that the public is more skeptical of the grand jury's decision not to indict in the choking death of Garner than in the Ferguson case.
More say the grand jury made the right decision not to indict in the Ferguson case, at 50 percent to 37 percent. By contrast, in the Staten Island case, 57 percent say the grand jury made the wrong decision in not indicting, and 22 percent say it was the right call.
Reflecting this split in opinion, Republicans back the grand jury's decision in Ferguson by a wide 76 percent to 12 percent margin, but there is much smaller 42 percent to 31 percent approval for the Staten Island grand jury decision.
White people approve of the Ferguson decision 64 percent to 23 percent, but oppose the Staten Island decision 47 percent to 28 percent. Black people and Democrats strongly disapprove of both decisions.
Only 21 percent say police-minority relations will improve this year, while 35 percent they will get worse. Among black people, that number is 52 percent.