New poll shows that for Black and young voters, reelection for Biden-Harris is complicated

Democratic experts tell theGrio that President Biden and Vice President Harris can still secure the votes of key demographics in November.

Biden and Harris,
U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris arrive for an event about their administration's approach to artificial intelligence in the East Room of the White House on Oct. 30, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A new national poll shows President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris continue to lose ground with Black, Hispanic, and young voters, the core base of the Democratic Party’s electorate that handed them their historic win in 2020. 

However, political strategists tell theGrio the USA Today/Suffolk University poll should not be much of a concern this early in the 2024 election cycle.

“Nothing in any of the recent polls dissuades the belief that there’s a path for Biden to get to the win numbers that he needs with Black voters, with young voters, and the overall electorate,” said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

The USA Today/Suffolk University poll found that among Black voters — who backed the Biden-Harris ticket over the Trump-Pence Republican ticket 92% to 8% in 2020 — 1 in 5 said they would support a third-party candidate in November over Biden. 

Additionally, former President Donald Trump, the overwhelming frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary contest, slightly leads Biden among Hispanic voters and young people (18 to 35 years old). By contrast, Biden won the majority of the youth and Hispanic votes in 2020.

However, there is good news for Biden and Harris. Twenty percent of Hispanic and Black voters, and 21% of young voters, said they would vote for a third-party candidate over Biden or Trump. 

Democratic experts believe this gives Biden an opportunity to win them over by Nov. 5.

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“There’s a path for Biden to get back to his win number … because those voters are not likely to abandon Biden in mass and go to Trump,” explained Payne, who noted that the issue of abortion and reproductive rights could become “animating” for young and Black voters this year.

Overall, Payne said, the USA Today/Suffolk University poll and other public polling do not reflect what has transpired in the last few election cycles, including last year’s midterm results, where issues like abortion are believed to have led to Democrats outperforming Republicans.

“That’s not what the electorate is going to typically look like,” he said, adding that if Biden and Harris shore up their support with their base, “those numbers will come up.”

The Biden-Harris White House is already setting the stage for their pitch to voters on the issue of abortion as Harris is set to embark on a reproductive freedoms tour across the country on Jan. 22, marking the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. That ruling was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer, putting an end to a nearly five-decade-old federal protection to abortion and reproductive access.

The vice president led a similar tour last summer when she traveled to HBCUs and other college campuses to discuss what the administration framed as a range of attacks by Republicans on freedoms such as abortion access and how Black history is taught in public schools. 

However, despite her travels and speeches around the country, the USA Today/Suffolk University poll also reveals Black voters have a less favorable view of America’s first Black and first female vice president. 

Fifty-six percent of Black voters approve of Harris compared with 68% who approve of Biden. Among young voters, 27% approve of Harris’ job performance compared with 32% who approve of Biden’s.

Vice President Kamala Harris takes part in a discussion during the Atlanta stop on her Fight For Our Freedoms tour in September 2023. (Photo by Lawrence Jackson, the White House)

Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye, executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party, told theGrio that there is obvious “bias” on the “racial and gender front” as it relates to Harris, who he said will be a “critically important voice” in 2024.

“I don’t think there’s any question about that in terms of how she’s treated and the standard that she’s held to versus folks who’ve occupied that seat before,” Olasanoye argued.

“I don’t remember a lot of coverage about how evangelicals felt about Mike Pence in 2016 or 2017, or ’18, or ’19,” he continued. “I don’t recall a lot of conversation about [then-Vice President] Joe Biden and his lack of visibility in Pennsylvania, for example, in 2012.”

Olasanoye also pointed out that the vice president’s office isn’t as visible as the president’s. 

“That’s not to say that her showing up doesn’t matter or her speaking about the issues doesn’t matter. It does,” he said. “But I do think that there’s a little bit of a sliding scale here in terms of how we view the visibility and the importance of the presidency.”

As Election Day nears in less than 10 months, Payne said that Biden, Harris, and Democrats will have to work on “contrast messaging” against Trump and Republicans. One of those messages that could tip the scale is the economy. 

Voters polled by USA Today/Suffolk University expressed an increased positive outlook on the U.S. economy, which has rebounded significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic. The unemployment rate is at its lowest in over 50 years, and inflation costs are dropping.

Despite fears of an economic recession, Payne noted that the “public narrative around the economy has not caught up to the reality.”

(Left to right) President Joe Biden meets with Rashawn Spivey (CEO of Hero Plumbing Inc.) and one of his workers during a December visit to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

“The economic indicators have been really encouraging … and I think that is probably one of the best assets that the Biden-Harris reelect [campaign] has going into this year,” he said. 

Olasanoye said other positive indicators include a drop in mortgage rates for the ninth consecutive week, an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an expected drop in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, and a stable stock market.  

The Georgia Democratic leader said the Biden-Harris administration also worked to ensure that its economic policies were inclusive of Black Americans, who historically fare worse in the economy. He said the White House and reelection campaign must continue informing Black voters about their actions, including their historic investments in Black businesses to stimulate economic growth. 

Olasanoye also noted that despite what history shows as it relates to the state of the economy and how voters cast their ballot, former President Barack Obama ran for reelection in 2012 with a much weaker economy. 

“If Obama was able to be reelected notwithstanding the performance of the economy, I think Joe Biden has the opportunity to be able to do the same,” he said. 

Despite some of the political challenges for Biden and Harris with their Black and young constituency, most recently the U.S. government’s response to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Payne said, “Those things can rebound with a little bit less crosswind if the economy is stable.”

Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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