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WASHINGTON, March 9 (Reuters) - Americans, who are suffering from high gasoline prices, believe the United States is on the wrong track by a large margin, in a fresh challenge for President Barack Obama, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Wednesday.
The proportion of Americans who believe the country is on the right track dropped 7 points in the past month to 31 percent, and 64 percent think the country is on the wrong track.
It was the highest number of people in an Ipsos poll who believe the country is going in the wrong direction since Obama took office in January 2009.
Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said the result was a direct result of gasoline prices that have risen sharply in recent weeks as a result of tumult in North Africa and the Middle East.
Obama's job approval rating dropped to 49 percent in February from 51 percent, a statistically insignificant change.
But his approval among independent voters who he will need for his 2012 re-election drive took a sharp dive, to 37 percent from 47 percent, the poll found.
Reporting by Steve Holland