President Joe Biden prides himself on his ability to connect with people, but his spin on politically problematic issues facing his administration, such as inflation and supply chain crunches, has coincided with polling that suggests fewer respondents believe he cares about voters like them.


Public approval of Biden's job as president has plummeted since inauguration, driven by disapproval regarding his handling of the economy, foreign policy, and even the COVID-19 pandemic, once considered his political advantage, according to Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy.

"Empathy has always been his strong suit, but even his 'cares about you' number has taken a hit," Malloy told the Washington Examiner of Biden.

For Malloy, the character polling question, not consistently included by researchers, is open to respondent interpretation, though former President Donald Trump performed poorly on it.

"It covers a lot of bases, but concern for America's families is certainly woven into the question," he said. “There is always time to gain ground. An end to the pandemic nightmare, a strengthening of the economy, and a sense that border issues are under control would go a long way toward that."

Biden's polling has stabilized since entering net negative job approval territory last summer. On average, 42% of people approve of Biden's job as president compared to a majority of 52% who disapprove, according to RealClearPolitics. But fewer than two-fifths of respondents told Morning Consult researchers last month they believed Biden cares about voters like them. That figure represents a 15-percentage-point drop from 53% in April, a six-and-a-half month period.

Morning Consult's findings undermine Biden's argument that one of his best political assets is his empathy. In fact, his aptitude for connecting with people, along with his technocratic competence, formed the crux of his 2020 campaign, providing a contrast to his predecessor and opponent at the time, Trump.

When people struggle, they tend to take their grievances out on a scapegoat, according to Suffolk University Political Research Center director David Paleologos. And politically, that person is first and foremost the president, he said.

"The thought process is, 'If he cared more, my day-to-day challenges wouldn't be so bad,'" Paleologos added.

Monmouth University Polling Institute Director Patrick Murray alluded to Biden's empathetic outreach being partly stymied by the apparent disconnect between his policies and normal people's priorities.

"This week we asked whether [the] federal government [helped or] hurt you," he said.

A quarter of that Monmouth poll's respondents believed the federal government had helped them with their top concern during the last year. While a similar percentage of people told researchers the federal government had had "no real impact" on that issue, another 46% were adamant it had hurt it. That is a 12-point increase from when more than one-third made the same assessment in July of the then-last six months.

Biden, a career politician, has spent almost half a century making small talk to all types of people and speeches to all sorts of crowds. But his perceived capacity for empathy has been compromised by his attempts to appear sensitive to financial hardships amid the pandemic as consumer prices rise and the coming holidays are at risk of being complicated by supply chain kinks.

"There are items every year that sell out, that are hard to find," he said last week during prepared White House remarks on supply chains. "Some of you moms and dads may remember Cabbage Patch Kids back in the ‘80s or Beanie Babies in the ‘90s, or other toys that have run out at Christmas time in past years when there was no supply chain problem."

And White House press secretary Jen Psaki bordered on callous when also addressing supply chain bottlenecks from behind her podium in October.

"It was clear in March of 2020, when COVID hit, that the supply chains across the world had been disrupted," a reporter said. "People couldn't get dishwashers and furniture and treadmills delivered on time, not to mention all sorts of other things."

"The tragedy of the treadmill that's delayed," Psaki quipped in response.

Biden's claim to both empathy and competence was first weakened by his deadly withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Select loved ones of the 13 military personnel killed in the terrorist attack by ISIS-K, an Islamic State affiliate group in Afghanistan and Pakistan, at capital Kabul's airport, for example, complained Biden checked his watch during the dignified transfer event.


"His message to all of the family members who were there — those who were not even in attendance — is that he is grateful to their sons and daughters," Psaki said at the time. "He knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a child and the fact that no one can tell you anything or say anything — or there’s no words that are going to fill that hole that is left by that."