Black, Hispanic and young voters abandon Biden, new poll shows


In a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, Biden’s failure to consolidate his victorious 2020 support has left him narrowly trailing Trump.

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President Joe Biden heads into the election year showing alarming weakness among stalwarts of the Democratic base, with Donald Trump leading among Hispanic voters and young people. One in 5 Black voters now say they’ll support a third-party candidate in November.

In a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, Biden’s failure to consolidate support in key parts of the coalition that elected him in 2020 has left him narrowly trailing Trump, the likely Republican nominee, 39%-37%; 17% support an unnamed third-party candidate.

When seven candidates are specified by name, Trump’s lead inches up to 3 percentage points, 37%-34%, with independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the top of the third-party candidates at 10%.

The findings underscore the formidable political task the president faces this year to win a second term.

“I think he’s done a reasonably sound job, but it’s not been a ‘wow’ administration,” said Michelle Derr, 55, a Democrat who plans to vote for Biden. The small-business owner from Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb just outside Washington, was among those surveyed. “For me, it’s disappointing that we have two old white guys in this race again. I want to look forward to the future.”

Biden now claims the support of just 63% of Black voters, a precipitous decline from the 87% he carried in 2020, according to the Roper Center. He trails among Hispanic voters by 5 percentage points, 39%-34%; in 2020 he had swamped Trump among that demographic group 2 to 1, 65%-32%.

And among voters under 35, a generation largely at odds with the GOP on issues such as abortion access and climate change, Trump now leads 37%-33%. Younger voters overwhelmingly backed Biden in 2020.

The possible good news for the president is that much of the support he needs to rebuild has drifted to third-party candidates, not into the camp of his likely opponent. Twenty percent of Hispanic and Black voters, and 21% of young voters, now say they’ll back someone other than the two main contenders.

Trump has the support of 12% of Black voters, precisely the percentage he received in 2020.

“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,” said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center. “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.”

The survey of 1,000 likely voters, conducted by landline and cellphone Tuesday through Friday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

There is more potentially good news for Biden: Views of the economy are brightening. Now 29% say the economy is in recovery, a jump of 8 percentage points since the survey in late October. In the wake of positive reports on employment, inflation and the stock market, that’s the highest level since August 2021.

To the frustration of the White House, though, the sunnier perception hasn’t translated to higher support for the president − at least not yet.

Trump’s temperature runs high on the enthusiasm thermometer

The challenge for Biden is to increase not only his support but also voter enthusiasm so his supporters bother to cast a ballot in November.

In the poll, 44% of Trump supporters describe themselves as a “10” on a thermometer measuring enthusiasm, the highest possible level. Among Biden supporters, fewer than half that number, 18%, call themselves a “10”.

Trump has troubles in court amid preparations for two criminal trials in federal court and two in state courts, in New York and Georgia, on charges including trying to overturn a legitimate election and mishandling some of the nation’s most sensitive documents after he left the White House in 2021. He’s appealing decisions by a Colorado court and the Maine secretary of state to bump him off primary ballots based on a constitutional bar to officeholders who commit insurrection.

So far, those legal travails haven’t dented the former president’s political support.

“Donald Trump, he has integrity,” said Joyce Masumoto, 78, a Republican from Orange County, California, who was called in the poll. “Biden and the Democrats − always bringing up Donald Trump. He’s not even doing anything and they’re blaming things on himself.”

“I voted for him the first time around and I was happy with his presidency and voted for him a second time,” said James Traylor, 45, Republican-leaning independent from Forney, Texas. He is a member of the City Council and vice president of property management for a real estate developer. Though he is considering a vote for RFK Jr., he would vote for Trump over Biden.

Trump, 77, is barreling into the election year with increasing command of the GOP nomination contest as well as his narrow lead over Biden in the general election. He’s backed by 62% of likely Republican primary voters, a record high for him in the poll as the GOP field has shrunk.

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, at 13%, has edged into a distant second place over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who continues his slide in support to 10%. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy is at 6%, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sits at 4%.

That said, Republican voters will begin to actually cast ballots this month, in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15 and the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 23. Both states hold the potential to surprise, especially in the Granite State. Trump now leads in New Hampshire at 44.1% in an average of recent polls by fivethirtyeight.com, with Haley at 25.7% and Christie at 11.1%.

Kamala Harris’ standing lags among Black voters, young voters

On the Democratic side, Biden faces no significant challenge for the nomination. In the poll, 74% of likely Democratic primary voters support him. Nine percent back inspirational author Marianne Williamson and 2% Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips; 15% are undecided.

The president’s problems loom in November, with the erosion of his coalition in the general election.

The Biden team has dispatched Vice President Kamala Harris as a natural emissary to university campuses, including some historically Black colleges. She is the first Black and Asian-American to serve as vice president, and at age 59 she is a generation younger than Biden, who is 81.

But the findings reveal difficulties she herself has with the Democratic base. She gets lower job approval ratings than Biden among Black voters, 56% compared with 68%. She lags Biden among voters younger than 35, too, at 27% compared with 32%.

Overall, Biden’s job approval rating is 39% approve, 58% disapprove. Of those, 43% “strongly” disapprove and 13% “strongly” approve.

Harris’ job approval rating is 33% approve, 57% disapprove. Of those, 40% “strongly” disapprove and 7% “strongly” approve.

“It’s exciting to have a woman vice president; that’s cool,” said Sara Falls, 46, a high school English teacher from Oakland, California. “But … I don’t really know what she’s up to. What is she up to? What does she do? I don’t know.”

Falls is likely to vote for Biden in November, but with some reluctance. “He’s not, like, my guy,” she said. “Bernie Sanders was my guy.” That would be the Vermont senator, now 82, who has led progressive causes and run presidential campaigns in the past.


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