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4 Jun, 2022 20:25

Black US voters ditching Democrats in droves – poll

Support for Biden is declining precipitously among African-Americans
Black US voters ditching Democrats in droves – poll

While 90% of black voters backed Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, just 70% approve of his job performance two years in, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll published on Saturday. 

Less than a quarter of respondents “strongly approve” of the president’s performance, an ominous note ahead of what is shaping up to be a difficult mid-term election for the Democratic Party, and 28% disapprove (either “strongly” or “somewhat”) with Biden’s work in office.

Additionally, just 60% of black voters say Biden is keeping most of his major campaign promises, while 37% say he is not. From the sky-high cost of living – climbing ever higher due to record inflation – to voting rights and policing reform, Biden’s perceived failure to deliver on the issues his supporters care about have given many of them second thoughts about whether they’ll even go to the polls at all come November.

Just a fifth of respondents thought Biden had budged the needle on criminal justice reform, whereas the leading response (42%) was that he had just done “a little,” while a third claimed he had done “nothing” on the issue. Biden faced significant opposition during the presidential primaries due to his central role in passing the 1994 crime bill, which included the controversial ‘three strikes’ provision that significantly increased the number of black Americans in prison, many of whom were often handed draconian sentences for relatively minor offenses. 

The president has repeatedly defended his work on those laws, but his efforts to present himself as a crusader for criminal justice reform by pardoning three people and commuting the sentences of 75 nonviolent drug offenders, compared to the thousands incarcerated under ‘three strikes’ laws while he was a senator, have done little to change his image.

Black voters are less convinced after two years in office that Biden is sympathetic to their problems, with an 8-point drop from 74% in 2020 to 66% this year. However, three-quarters remain convinced that the Republican Party is racist against African-Americans, while just a quarter think the same about Democrats.

This uninspiring performance may have detrimental results at the polls, with fewer than two thirds of respondents (64%) saying they were “absolutely certain to vote” in the midterms when asked last month, compared to the 85% who said in June 2020 that they’d certainly vote in that year’s election.

Not everyone has blamed Biden for his poor performance, however. Poll respondents came up with numerous excuses for Democrats’ failure to deliver despite controlling both houses of Congress in addition to the presidency. “The Democratic Party doesn’t attack like a fist, they attack like five fingers. They go in different directions,” one survey respondent answered, while another suggested that the president could hardly be expected to accomplish much following on the heels of “someone as extreme as Trump” and claimed that the Democrat-controlled Congress was actually working against Biden.

However, given the uninspiring slate of potential nominees come 2024, a plurality of black voters support Biden over the alternatives. Some 43% back the incumbent, compared to 29% in favor of current Vice President Kamala Harris and 7% for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; 18% were in favor of someone else, with 2% of those respondents volunteering the name of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and 1% suggesting former First Lady Michelle Obama.

And overall, black voters remain much more supportive of Biden than Americans in general. Polls have repeatedly delivered record-setting low approval rates for the president among the general electorate, with just 36% of respondents in a Reuters/Ipsos poll published last month reporting a favorable view of his work. 

Biden’s 2020 victory was largely due to the support of black voters, who overwhelmingly lean Democrat and whose strong support in early primary states such as South Carolina helped bolster the candidate over competitors such as Bernie Sanders.