The partisan battle for Black voters’ support may not be as cut-and-dry this year compared to the build-up to presidential elections in recent memory.
Instead of the traditional support from Black voters going to the Democratic nominee, the unusually high number of third-party candidates this year could flip that status quo on its head and spell doom for President Joe Biden, a major pollster said.
That’s because 20% of Black voters – Biden’s most loyal base – expect to cast their ballots on Election Day for neither the incumbent nor Donald Trump, the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, respectively, according to a new poll.
The findings in the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll are the latest evidence that fewer Black voters plan on supporting Biden’s reelection efforts, giving a slight edge to Trump in the general election.
To be precise, the poll found that nearly 25% fewer Black voters plan to support Biden this year than they did in 2020. On the flip side, Trump has managed to maintain the 12% support among Black voters that he got in 2020, which the polling suggests could prove to be the difference in November.
“Although Trump hasn’t grown support among Black voters, he has closed the deficit because third-party voters come off of Biden’s support among Blacks,” David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center, said about the new poll. “A young voter or a person of color voting ‘third party’ is a vote away from President Biden, and a vote away from President Biden is a vote for Donald Trump.”
And while fewer young people are expected to vote this year compared to past presidential elections, the decline is “most pronounced” among Black voters, according to a poll released last month.
At the same time, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – the top-polling third-party candidate – is reportedly enjoying support among Black voters in battleground states at an unprecedented level.
MSNBC reported that 28% of Black voters in battleground states plan to vote for Kennedy. While 50% of those same voters support Biden, 13% are expected to vote for Trump, recent polling shows.
That’s likely at least partially because Black voters in swing states – including some that helped secure Biden’s victory in 2020 – have been supporting Trump at levels previously “unseen” by a Republican candidate, a previous poll found.
Of those states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – just one shows Biden beating Trump by a slim margin.
On a more granular level, there are more Black voters from those states – 22% of them – supporting a Republican presidential candidate than ever previously recorded, the New York Times reported.
While polling is far from definitive, it can indicate trends like Black voters’ unprecedented support for a third-party candidate this year.
“This is a pretty unique historical moment when more than 60% of the population says they’re open to voting for a third-party or independent candidate,” Tony Lyons, Kennedy’s book publisher and the co-founder of a super PAC for the candidate, told NBC News.
Beyond Black voters, an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist national poll released in October found that Trump would likely emerge victorious in November when factoring in Kennedy’s independent candidacy and the 16% of support he was predicted to get. Without Kennedy’s candidacy, the poll showed Biden would beat Trump.
Biden’s pro-Israel policies amid the escalating conflict in Gaza have been another touchstone for young Black voters, in particular, who have demanded more from the president’s administration when it comes to protecting the Palestinian people.
Third-party presidential candidates Jill Stein and Cornel West have been adamant in their condemnation of the Biden administration’s aid for Israel – stances that, according to polling, could resonate with those same young Black voters and result in their support on Election Day, which could similarly bode well for Trump.
Stein and West have called Israel’s violence in Gaza “genocide.”
Washington Monthly reported that “professional pollsters say polling of third-party candidates can’t accurately assess a minor candidate’s support, let alone their durability.”
Nevertheless, Vice President Kamala Harris has been out galvanizing young voters – especially Black ones – on behalf of the Biden Administration and the Democratic political machine has been working overtime to shore up support among all Black voters.
“The DNC hasn’t let up on engaging and mobilizing Black voters,” Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Jaime Harrison told the Guardian recently. “This isn’t something I take lightly. I know what it feels like to have our community taken for granted and only have folks show up for us when they need our vote on election day.”
This is America.