March 9, 2020
Warning Signs for November
Now that Black voters have gone to the polls on Super Tuesday, after resoundingly casting their votes for Joe Biden in South Carolina, we have a broader sense of their preferences in the Democratic presidential primary race. But it’s important to understand that defeating Donald Trump is not the sole motivating factor for Black voters in 2020. A recent national poll conducted for BlackPAC by brilliant corners research and strategies, shows that Black voters are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the direction of the country and are looking for progressive policy solutions and strong leadership that will unite the country— rather than the idea of simply “voting blue, no matter who.”
Though Trump consistently claims that the economy is the greatest it’s ever been in the history of our country, Black voters disagree. 42 percent feel the economy is getting worse and only 18 percent feel that it’s getting better. And while 18 percent of also report being ahead of the cost of living, 38 percent say they are falling behind altogether, and 40 percent say they are just barely keeping up.
This would seemingly make the case for Democrats, many of whom are campaigning on the belief that anti-Trump sentiment alone will mobilize Black voters. But polling tells a different story, one that suggests that even though Black voters are highly engaged and following the election closely (88 percent), they haven’t yet made up their minds about who to vote for or if they will even vote at all.
The majority of Black voters want a Democratic candidate who can unify the country. But they aren’t exactly thrilled with their options. Only 70 percent say they will actually vote for a Democrat in the general election, a stark contrast to the 93 percent of Black voters who voted for President Barack Obama in 2012. Meanwhile, 12 percent say plan to vote other or third party in November. 6 percent are currently undecided about who they will support.
Most striking is that more than a third of Black voters (34 percent) say they wish “someone else was running” in the race. For potential third-party voters, this number jumps to 50 percent. Overall, Black voters believe that Democrats have the right approach to the economy, trust that they will move the country forward and fight for the interests of African-Americans. But 54 percent also think that the Party hasn’t done enough for them and more than a quarter remain skeptical that voting is a sufficient way to make change.
All of this points to signs that Democrats may underperform with Black voters in this election cycle if they do not increase their outreach.
According to Cornell Belcher, founder and president of brilliant corners research and strategies, Democrats are in danger of repeating 2016 by failing to bring back together and unify the elements of the Obama coalition. Currently, the gap between engagement and enthusiasm is high with Black voters. They want Trump gone, they believe that he and the Republican Party are racist, but they are not enthusiastic about the alternatives. This leaves room for uncertainty and the possibility that a small number of them will cast their ballot for a scary alternative. Almost one-third of Black voters have been contacted in some form by the Trump campaign. Only 15 percent say that it makes them more likely to support him. But it in an election cycle where everything is unpredictable and nothing is guaranteed, Black voters cannot be taken for granted. It’s clear that they want a nominee who has demonstrated that they have the ability to improve the economy, heal the nation and make our democracy live up to its promise for all its citizens.