Obama the Divider?

The only real hope that Democrats have in this midterm is to cobble together the voter coalition that Barack Obama created in two elections in order to counter what looks to be a Republican wave. They have one big obstacle to that goal — Barack Obama himself. According to an analysis from the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, Obama has lost the confidence of his once-favored demographics, and with it any enthusiasm to protect him in November:


Both Cole and Richardson were surveyed in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll and represent one of its most striking findings: the degree to which the president’s approval has slipped among key parts of the Obama coalition — the women, youth and Latino voters most responsible for putting him into office.

Women surveyed said they disapprove of Obama by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin — nearing an all-time low in the poll. It’s almost the reverse of the 55 percent to 44 percent breakdown for Obama among female voters in 2012, according to exit polls.

His approval rating among women has slipped 4 percentage points from a year ago and 16 percentage points since his second inaugural in January 2013, when his approval was 60 percent among the group.

Among younger voting-age Americans, Obama’s approval rating stood at 43 percent. That marked an 11 percentage point drop since June among those from 18 through 29 years old. Voters younger than 30 supported Obama by 60 percent to 37 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, support for Obama among Hispanics stood at 57 percent, which is down markedly from the first half of 2013, when approval among Latinos soared to about 75 percent.

The slippage among Latinos is easy to diagnose. He’s been promising action on immigration reform since his first presidential campaign, but managed to keep their votes without doing anything about it. This summer, Obama made a big pretense about issuing executive orders in order to cut through the politics, only to chicken out because of the polls … and chicken out with a leak to the media on a Saturday. That 57% level is likely transitory to something lower when the impact of that decision plays out fully.


With women, the picture may be a little murkier. Both of the women interviewed by the WaPo/ABC poll cite Obama’s lack of leadership, while one complains that she’s not getting what she was sold from Obama in his campaigns. The Obama “war on women” campaign demagoguery might finally be getting more plain two-plus years out from its inception, or perhaps women are just getting tired of being valued by Democrats on the basis of their sex lives. The biggest change may be the sense of growing danger and the administration’s inability to handle it. In any case, they are no longer impressed with Obama, especially with his sense of priorities:

When called back for follow-up interviews, some of the women who responded to the Post-ABC poll said they too had been unsettled by the beheadings — and by Obama’s decision to play golf just minutes after giving a statement expressing his revulsion at the death of journalist James Foley.

Cole, the California woman, said it seemed to her that Obama was “very nonchalant. . . . The personal side of it, that he has feelings, is gone.”

And Richardson — interviewed before Obama gave a prime time speech Wednesday laying out plans to target Islamic State with airstrikes — said “he just made these promises that he doesn’t go through with” related to the terrorist group.


With women being so critical to Democrats’ hopes this midterm season, that is a very bad sign.

Aaron Blake says that’s not the worst of the poll’s findings, though. The worst is that a strong majority now see Obama as a divider rather than a uniter:

The most troubling number for President Obama in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll is this one: Americans say 55 percent to 38 percent that he is more of a divider than a uniter.

That’s a reversal from last year, when Americans said 47-45 that Obama had done more to unite the country than divide it.

Of course, Obama also has become significantly more unpopular over that span, so it’s not surprising to see his “uniter” rating drop (and in fact, both numbers have dropped equally over the past 16 months). But the uniter/divider number stings more than most other measures of Obama’s leadership.

Why? Because this was the thing that put Obama on the map.

It creates a much more acute and significant problem than just identity. Democrats will argue in the midterms that Republicans are divisive and partisan, and can’t be given control of the Senate in order to obstruct Obama. That argument may have worked if people saw Obama as someone inclined to work across the aisle. Among independents especially (35/59), that’s no longer the case. And if the President is the divider, then it makes more sense to have his opposition control both chambers of Congress and force him to change than to allow him to continue with the status quo, especially while demonstrating such poor leadership.


The 2008 and 2012 Obama coalitions are gone, as are the 2008 and 2012 façades of Obama. With Republicans taking special care not to shoot themselves in the foot this fall, Democrats are in deep trouble as November approaches.

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David Strom 6:00 PM | February 27, 2024