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President Obama’s disconnect problem, charted

In my Monday column for the print version  of WaPo, I wrote about growing concerns among Democrats that President Obama is growing increasingly frustrated and disconnected from his party and the public -- a break that could cause major problems at the ballot box this fall.

Polling bears out this sense from the public that Obama is disconnected from their concerns, which, at the start of his presidency, was one of his strongest attributes. Check out this chart -- detailing Obama's performance on a number of character questions  -- from Gallup.

Image courtesy of Gallup
Image courtesy of Gallup

It's not terribly surprising that Obama's performance on these character questions has declined over his time in office; he was elected with such a groundswell in 2008 that he had nowhere to go but down and, as his overall approval numbers have tumbled into the low 40s, all of his other numbers have followed suit.

But, remember that understanding average peoples' problems was not only at the core of Obama's appeal in 2008 but was a critical piece of his 2012 reelection win over Mitt Romney too. Romney was effectively cast by the Obama team as an uncaring plutocrat while the incumbent was painted as more of the regular Joe (he had student loans!).

Among the one in five (21 percent) 2012 voters who said that the most important quality to them in choosing a candidate was that he "cares about people like me", Obama won 81 percent of the vote -- a massive margin when compared to the other character questions.

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 10.24.04 AM

At the core of the 2012 election then was the idea that Obama was, generally, in touch with voters' needs and concerns -- that he understood, at some basic level, what was going on in the country.  That sense has eroded since his reelection -- as evidenced by his slipping "understands the problems of people like me" ratings. A Post-ABC poll in January showed Obama has hit his low mark on the question and a June Gallup poll showed the same.

That's a problem for Democrats -- particularly since they are pining for an Obama ready to spend the fall talking up why on a range of economic issues Democrats are the better choice for the average person.  Even if Obama does decide to head in that direction message-wise, polling suggests people might not be as willing to believe him.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

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