One of the best-respected polls of voters of color shows President Joe Biden is facing strong headwinds among his most loyal base of support: Black Americans.
In the GenForward survey released on Tuesday and shared first with POLITICO, nearly 1 in 5 Black Americans, 17 percent, said they would vote for former President Donald Trump. And 20 percent of Black respondents said they would vote for “someone else” other than Biden or Trump.
According to the survey, about three-quarters of Black respondents said they would vote if the presidential election were held today, a figure that trails the number of white voters who said they would vote today by 10 points.
The GenForward survey is housed at the University of Chicago and was conducted with 3,448 eligible voters, including large oversamples with voters of color, from Nov. 8-30 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey — which was conducted over the internet with a mix of respondents who were randomly selected to join a panel and those who opted-in to participate in the survey — has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.
Black adults backed Biden more than any other racial group in the survey, but the president notched just 63 percent among this bloc.
It also represents a significant jump for Trump among Black voters overall. During the 2020 presidential election, AP VoteCast found Trump won 8 percent of Black voters, versus 91 percent voting for Biden.
“It is possible, and we’ve seen it before, that a higher number, in particular Black men because of a kind of hypermasculinity of Donald Trump, could vote for Trump [again],” said Cathy Cohen, the founder and director of the GenForward project and a University of Chicago political science professor.
She adds that this figure might be balanced out by the number of Black women, often thought of as the backbone of the Democratic Party’s multiracial coalition, who support Biden at higher rates than Black men.
While she notes there is still plenty of time for Biden’s reelection team to message about why Black voters should support the president, Cohen suggested there are troubling signs regarding turnout ahead. Chief among them were the glaring figure of 20 percent of Black and Latino respondents, respectively, who said they would not vote if the election were held today.
“For younger people, it is the threat of a third-party candidate or staying at home,” that should be the real fear for Democrats, Cohen said.
Overall, just 46 percent of respondents across all racial groups said they would back the current president if the election were held today, compared with 57 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islanders. Latino and white respondents were nearly identical with 42 and 44 percent, respectively, saying they’d back the current president.
When broken down by race, the survey found Latinos more than double that of Black respondents who say they support Trump (17 percent of Black voters compared with 36 percent of Latinos). But while the jump in Trump support among African Americans in the survey is eye-opening, the third of Latinos who voted for Trump in the survey is essentially flat compared with 2020 exit polls.
“Polling numbers at this point are not predictive of the future,” said longtime Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, who did not work on the GenForward survey.
Belcher, a veteran of both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, added that around this time in 2011 several polls, including one from Gallup focusing on a dozen swing states for the 2012 cycle that Obama was losing in head-to-head matchups to both Mitt Romney, the eventual GOP nominee, and to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who won just two states — his home state of Georgia and neighboring South Carolina — during the Republican primary that year.
“If Joe Biden fails, it’s not going to be because Black people voted for Donald Trump,” Belcher said, and called the narrative both “lazy” and oversimplified.
He added that there is more of a sense that all voters, but especially younger voters of color who are fed up with both political parties, creating “an off-ramp to third-party voting, which is what we saw in 2016.”
Concerns over inflation by far outpaced all other issues for respondents across all racial groups with gun control and immigration lagging far behind. Overall, the president’s approval rating in this survey was sitting at a paltry 38 percent. For Black respondents, half approve of Biden’s job performance, while 34 percent of Latinos, 37 percent of AAPI and 36 percent of white respondents viewed Biden positively.