Joe Biden beat Bernie Sanders largely on the strength of black voters. Those black voters strayed a bit during Kamala Harris’ attacks, but then came back to Biden. If not for black voters, Biden would have lost and be a historical footnote already.
Yet Biden is actually performing worse with black voters than Hillary, against Trump.
The death of George Floyd and subsequent protests reshaped the presidential race. It brought race relations, racism and police brutality to the forefront.
In that time, former Vice President Joe Biden’s advantage over President Donald Trump expanded from about six points to closer to 10 points.
Interestingly, however, Trump continues to do something perhaps unexpectedly among Black voters: Hold his own against Biden relative to many people’s expectations.
Biden leads in those polls by an 83% to 8%, or 75-point, margin. That, of course, is a huge advantage for Biden, but it also represents a small improvement for Trump since 2016.
Hillary Clinton was ahead of Trump by a 79-point margin among Black registered voters in the pre-election polls taken right before the 2016 election, as compiled by the New York Times’ Nate Cohn. Biden, for what it’s worth, is equaling Clinton’s 83% in those polls. Trump’s picking up a lot of the vote that went to third-party candidates.
A number of things are going on here.
This isn’t huge-huge news just because the numbers are so lopsided, but the Democrats are so dependent on the black vote that they can’t afford to lose any of it in swing states. And it signals something scarier, a lack of real enthusiasm among black voters.
And Trump is benefiting from the black protest vote.
The BLM movement is doing real damage to Trump’s numbers. But not among black voters, but white suburbanites. That’s been the real challenge.
Black Lives Matter is a huge issue or white suburbanites and lefties, but not much of an issue among black communities. As in, black voters are not going to tilt more for Biden over it. The tilt is disproportionate anyway. And, if anything, it’s getting some black voters to move to Trump who are disgusted with the movement. These are not going to be very significant numbers, but, as mentioned before, the Democrats can’t afford to lose them and the bellwether involved is scarier.
But if the race for president tightens, Trump’s small gain with Black voters could make a difference. It could cost Biden 0.5 points nationally on the whole compared to where Clinton ended up. That may not seem like a lot, though it could make the difference in a close election. And, of course, Biden’s margin with Black voters may tighten further if the margin with other voters also shifts.
Historically, Trump is doing as well and probably even a touch better than Republicans normally do among Black voters. While we don’t have a bulk of pre-election polling for many prior years like we do for 2016, the American National Election Studies pre-election polls show that since 1964, the average Democrat has earned 86% to the average Republican’s 6%. That 80-point margin is wider than the current 75-point margin Biden current earns.
These are Biden numbers. And Biden, like the Clintons, had a close relationship with the black community. You can see why the Trump team wanted Bernie to win.
Imagine black voter numbers with an elderly socialist who has no idea how to talk to black people at the top of the ticket. Or, for that matter, if you want a real nightmarish scenario for Democrats, a Buttigieg or Warren ticket.
The Democrats dodged that bullet, but they’re not out of the woods.