WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama said racial tensions may have softened his popularity among white voters within the past two years, according to a story posted Sunday on The New Yorker magazine's website.
"There's no doubt that there's some folks who just really dislike me because they don't like the idea of a black president," Mr. Obama said in the article by David Remnick, appearing in the magazine's Jan. 27 edition.
"Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I'm a black president," Mr. Obama said in his most direct comments on how race has affected his political standing since he has been in office.
Mr. Obama's second term has been marked by controversies including a partial government shutdown in October, revelations that the National Security Agency has gathered personal mobile phone data and the troubled rollout of health insurance expansion.
Mr. Obama's approval rating among all voters is 39 percent and his disapproval rating is 53 percent, according to a Gallup Poll conducted Tuesday to Thursday. In the 2012 presidential election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney won 59 percent of the white vote, compared with Mr. Obama's 39 percent, according to exit polling by a consortium of major news outlets. Mr. Obama won 43 percent of the white vote in 2008 against 55 percent for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"Poll after poll makes it very clear that Obamacare and other job-killing policies are the reason" for the president's decline in popularity, Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said in a phone interview Sunday.
Mr. Obama offered reflections on a variety of subjects in the New Yorker story, including his view about the dangers of playing professional football, which has been the subject of media scrutiny over players' head injuries.
"I would not let my son play pro football," the article quotes Mr. Obama, the father of two daughters, as saying. When asked by Mr. Remnick how those dangers squared with his enjoyment of the game as a spectator, Mr. Obama said professional players are aware of the inherent risk in playing a full-contact sport.
"They know what they're buying into," Mr. Obama said. "It is no longer a secret. It's sort of the feeling I have about smokers, you know?"
Mr. Obama acknowledged that reports of U.S. surveillance programs, including allegations that the government tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone, had created a "breach of trust," Mr. Remnick reported.
Mr. Obama said he also assumes others are trying to spy on him, and for this reason he doesn't have a phone, according to The New Yorker.
He said, "there are European governments that we know spy on us, and there is a little bit of Claude Rains in 'Casablanca' -- shocked that gambling is going on," the magazine quoted him as saying, referring to the actor who played the police captain in the 1942 movie.