Black Voters Still Back Biden, but Support Is Softening

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., , center, gestures towards former Vice President Joe Biden, as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., talks, during the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art, on June 27, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

(CN) – On primetime television last month, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California showed America she packs a powerful left hook. Former Vice President Joe Biden demonstrated his ability to take a punch without losing his fighting stance.

Morning Consult tallied the post-debate score among Democrats on Tuesday and found that while Biden suffered the greatest loss – particularly among black voters – and Harris made the biggest gains, their rankings didn’t change.

The online poll reached 5,000 voters between July 1 and 7.

While a third of Democrats support Biden’s 2020 bid for presidency, a majority of voters are still weighing other candidates. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont remains in second place, with support from 19% of Democrats polled. Harris gained a slight advantage over U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, but both remain more or less tied for third place.

The poll also indicated Warren and Harris fall behind Biden and Sanders in terms of name recognition, with 10 to 15% of voters saying they have never heard of either woman.

Before the debate, 38% of Democrats polled supported Biden, compared to 31% after. After Harris called Biden out on his work with segregationist politicians and his opposition of federally funded school buses, Biden notably lost support from 8% of black Democrats who had previously said they would vote for him.

But 76% percent of black voters still view Biden favorably, with 38% saying they would vote for him. Meanwhile, 16% of black voters stand behind Harris – five points fewer than Bernie Sanders.

Most support for Harris comes from white liberals. Forty-nine percent of voters who say they support her described themselves as liberal, with roughly a fifth claiming to be very liberal and a fifth falling moderate. Sixty-nine percent of her supporters are white and 23% black.

According to a survey sponsored by the Black Economic Alliance in June, economic challenges are a key motivator for many black voters.

“Economic challenges have put the American dream out of reach for many black families, who say their incomes are not keeping up with the cost of living,” wrote the authors of the survey, calling for a presidential candidate with a clear and committed plan to help black communities improve “work conditions, wages, and wealth.”

Harris made the most gains with voters aged 45 to 64, a group where Biden lost the most support. Those who remain behind him, however, consider Biden to be a safe, centrist candidate.

“If I was going to say there’s a viable candidate, I would say it’s Biden,” said Jim Bondie, an independent voter from Denver. “Seems like some of them are bums and pie in the sky, free-Medicare, free this, free that, and seems like all their bases want to raise taxes on the rich.”

If it looks like Biden’s supporters jumped to Harris after the debate, political analysts at Five Thirty Eight paint a much more complicated picture. Their poll interviewed 500 voters before, during, and after the debates, and found that viewers who tuned in supporting Biden shifted to a number of other candidates afterward, including Sanders and Warren.

Harris also drew support from voters across the board, including those who previously backed U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg – and Biden.


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