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Barack Obama’s presidency seems to be altering the public perception of race relations in the United States. Two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Despite that, half of blacks still say whites have a better chance of getting ahead in American society, the poll found. Black Americans remain among the president’s staunchest supporters; 70 percent of black respondents now say the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 34 percent of whites.

The poll found broad support for Obama’s approach on a variety of issues, including one of the most contentious on his plate right now: whether Congress should investigate the harsh interrogation tactics authorized by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Sixty-two percent of Americans share Obama’s view that hearings are unnecessary.

As Obama approaches the 100th day of his presidency, Americans seem to have high hopes for him; 72 percent said they are optimistic about the next four years. By and large, Americans expect the president to make significant progress in revamping health care, energy and immigration policy, issues central to his ambitious domestic agenda.

But the optimism is tempered by a feeling of resignation about two of the most difficult challenges the president faces: reviving the economy and ending U.S. military involvement in Iraq. Most Americans say Obama has begun to make progress on both fronts, but many do not expect either the recession or the war to be over by the end of his term.

It is not unusual for new presidents to enjoy substantial public support at this point in their terms. But Obama’s 68 percent job approval rating is higher than that of any recent president at the 100-day mark. Former President George W. Bush had the approval of 56 percent of the public at this juncture.

The nationwide telephone survey was conducted Wednesday through Sunday with 973 adults. For purposes of analysis, blacks were oversampled in this poll, for a total of 212, who were then weighted back to their proper proportion in the poll, according to the Census.

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for all adults, and plus or minus 7 points for blacks.