Biden Struggling With Young and Black Voters

By Adeline Von Drehle
Published On: Last updated 05/21/2024, 09:03 AM EDT

President Joe Biden confronted his struggles with young black voters by giving the commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday, part of a larger effort to reunite the coalition that helped him get elected in 2020. Biden is down 1.1 points in the RCP Average.

The president highlighted policy initiatives such as his student loan relief program and a 3-year $16 billion investment for historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, a group which includes Morehouse College. Biden’s commencement address came as polling has consistently shown Biden struggling to match his 2020 numbers when it comes to young and black voters.

Pew Research reports that 77% of black voters say they would vote for or lean toward Biden, while 18% say they would vote for or lean toward Trump. These numbers show a decrease in support among black voters for Biden and an increase in support among black voters for Trump since 2020. Last time around, Biden won 87% of the black vote, compared to Trump’s 12% support. 

Much of the disaffection for Biden has been among younger black voters, according to Pew. Black voters under 50 are much more likely to favor Trump (29%) than are black voters over 50 (9%). Support for Biden is also much lower among younger black voters (68%) than it is among older black voters (84%).

Biden’s weaknesses among younger black voters may be exacerbated by his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, an issue which has divided American opinion and led to student protests across the country. 

“Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them,” Biden said during the address. “What’s happening in Gaza and Israel is heartbreaking. … That’s why I’ve called for an immediate cease-fire.” Biden managed to get through his speech without interruption.

Several White House aides say they are confident that protests against U.S. support of Israel’s offensive in Gaza will not affect the outcome of the election, reported Reuters. They point to a recent Harvard poll that ranks Israel/Palestine 15th on a list of important issues, far down the list from inflation, housing, abortion and immigration.

Still, Biden’s support among young voters has definitely faltered, as a recent CNN poll placed Biden 11 points behind his predecessor Donald Trump among voters under 30. Biden won that same age group with about 60% support in 2020. 

Exactly why Biden is struggling with young and black voters may be less important than the simple fact that he is struggling. Noise about foreign policy may be taking Biden’s attention away from issues that matter most to the majority of the country, such as the economy and the border. In order to build back his base, the Biden campaign will need to continue highlighting policy initiatives which aim to tangibly improve the lives of those groups whose votes they so vitally depend on.

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