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Obama approval rating below 50 percent

WASHINGTON – More than half of Americans now disapprove of President Barack Obama’s job performance, new polling found, as the ground zero mosque controversy appeared to further erode ratings that the nation’s stagnant economy already had damaged.

Gallup’s tracking poll for Saturday through Monday found Obama’s disapproval rating at 51 percent, a new high, the organization said Tuesday. For the third day in a row, the president’s average approval rating was 42 percent, also a low for Obama.

“It’s certainly a reasonable hypothesis that the mosque comments are a cause of his lower approval ratings and his higher disapproval,” said Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief.

This latest three-day tracking began the day after Obama delivered a speech in which he said a group of Muslims had the right to build a house of worship anywhere local laws allowed, and that the nation’s commitment to religious freedom must remain “unshakeable.”

The tracking poll doesn’t ask respondents to explain the factors behind their ratings.

Presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter all experienced job approval numbers as low or lower in the Augusts of their second years in office, Newport said, and such ratings are typical of tough economic times.