Washington (CNN) - Support for President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy is fairly high, but that hasn't stopped his approval rating from dropping below 50 percent for the first time in a CNN poll.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey released Friday, 48 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama's doing as president, with 50 percent disapproving. The 48 percent approval is a 7 point drop in approval from last month.
"The poll indicates that the biggest drop in approval comes from non college educated white voters," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That's one indication among many that Obama's growing unpopularity may be more related to unemployment and the poor economy."
In fact, six in ten Americans questioned say they favor Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to that country. Two-thirds also support his plan to start removing U.S. forces from Afghanistan in the summer of 2011 - although the poll indicates most Americans think that announcing that timetable in advance was a bad idea, and they are skeptical whether conditions in Afghanistan in 2011 will actually allow the U.S. to start drawing down troop levels.
Support for Obama's policies does not translate into support for the war itself; a majority still say they oppose U.S. action in that country.
"That may currently be a reflection on George W. Bush rather than Obama," says Holland. "Two-thirds say they blame the former president, not Obama, for the problems the U.S. currently faces in Afghanistan."
But the poll suggests the conflict is eventually going to become Mr. Obama's War, with 54 percent saying they will blame Obama, not Bush, for any problems the U.S. faces in Afghanistan in 2011.
The poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday, after the president spelled out his new Afghanistan policy in a prime time address Tuesday night at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Several late-November polls have indicated Obama's approval rating this low even before his speech at West Point. Weekly averages of national polls showed Obama's approval consistently at 52 or 53 percent from mid-October through mid-November.
"But in the week before Thanksgiving, his average approval rating slipped to 49 percent - solid evidence that something was going on before Obama announced his Afghan policy," adds Holland.
Obama's rating dropped 18 points among non-college whites, but only four points among whites who attended college - a good indication that the economy and other domestic issues are hurting the president.
Obama also dropped 15 points among whites under the age of 50, but only four points among older whites.
"That may partly be due to Afghanistan, but the young are also the group hardest hit when unemployment rises. The same is true for white women, whose approval of Obama dropped 12 points," says Holland.
Obama is not the first president to drop below 50 percent in his first year in the White House. That dubious honor goes to Ronald Reagan, whose approval rating dipped to 49% in November, 1981, and stayed below that mark for two years. Bill Clinton also dropped well below the 50 percent mark by May, 1993 - the fastest on record.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted by telephone, with 1,041 people questioned. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report