Biden Underperforming with Black Voters Compared to Obama, Clinton

ROCK HILL, SC - AUGUST 29: Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at a town hall event at Clinton College on August 29, 2019 in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Biden has spent Wednesday and Thursday campaigning in the early primary state. (Photo by …
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Former Vice President Joe Biden is underperforming among black voters compared to recent Democrat presidential nominees, according to a series of new data surveys.

Weekly surveys conducted by the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project since July of last year indicate that Biden is not pulling the same level of support among African Americans nationally as former President Barack Obama and ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did in 2012 and 2016, respectively.

In particular, surveys conducted between April and mid-May of this year show the presumptive Democrat nominee only receiving 79 percent support among registered black voters in a head-to-head matchup with President Donald Trump, as first reported by the Washington Post. The surveys found Trump garnering 11 percent support, while a further 11 percent of black voters said they were undecided.

The results were obtained by surveying 6,000 registered voters weekly between April 2 and May 13.

If accurate, the numbers, pose a major problem for Biden and his party moving into the general election.

Most Democrat strategists point to a drop-off in black turnout between 2012 and 2016 as the primary reason for why Clinton lost.

During that race, Clinton received 88 percent of the black vote, according to exit polls. Although impressive, the numbers were significantly lower than the 93 percent former President Barack Obama garnered on his way to reelection in 2012.

The drop-off was most significant in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—states that went narrowly for Trump that election after having backed Democrats at the presidential level for nearly three decades. For example, data from the Michigan secretary of state’s office indicates Clinton received 75,000 fewer votes in Wayne County—where Detroit is located—than Obama did in 2012. Even though Clinton still won the country by a substantial margin, the decrease in support ensured Clinton lost the state to Trump, who made strong inroads with white working-class voters, by more than 10,000 votes.

Many believe that if black turnout was the same in 2016 as it was in 2012, Clinton would have won the presidency, despite Trump’s populist appeal to blue-collar whites. As such, Democrats are pushing Biden to do everything possible to hit the 2012 margins, starting with tapping a woman of color as his running mate. Biden, himself, seemed open to the notion earlier this year but has recently backtracked on the idea.

It is unclear, though, if the solution to Biden’s trouble with African American voters would be solved by selecting a black vice presidential nominee.

The Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape surveys found that the former vice president’s weakened position likely stemmed from a lack of enthusiasm from younger black voters in comparison to older ones.

The surveys indicate that just 57 percent of black voters between the ages of 18 and 29 have a favorable opinion of Biden in comparison to 88 percent of African Americans 65-years-of-age and older.

Furthermore, the results show that only 68 percent of registered black voters between the ages of 18 and 29 would commit to voting for Biden in the general election. Meanwhile, 13 percent said they would vote for Trump, with 18 percent claiming they were undecided. As the Post noted, Clinton in 2016 received the support of 85 percent of such young black voters.

The disparity is likely the result of Biden’s more moderate positioning on economic and social issues.

Most notably, this was on display during the Democrat primaries earlier this year. Biden, despite running as the Obama-legacy candidate, continuously fared poorly among younger black voters, who favored the more progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Even though he won the nomination thanks in part to older black voters in states like South Carolina and other regions of the South, Sanders ran even among black voters 45-years-of-age and under.

It is unclear if Biden will be able to make up ground among such voters by the time of the general election.

Although the odds appear favorable, they are by no means certain, especially if the former vice president attempts to lean heavily on his ties to the Obama administration. A Morning Consult poll from February showed that roughly 30 percent of black Democrats below the age of 45 believed the Obama presidency “did not live up to its promise.”


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