Posted on February 21, 2020

Sanders’ Gains with Black Voters Are a Big Deal Heading into the Race’s Next Phase

Chuck Todd and Carrie Dann, NBC News, February 21, 2020

If you’d asked us this time last year about what the most obvious tangible challenges for Bernie Sanders would be in the 2020 primary electorate, Exhibit A or B would have been his limited past success with minority voters, specifically African Americans.

A white septuagenarian from one of the whitest states in the country, Sanders struggled in the 2016 primary in states with high black populations, losing every county in South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama, all but one in Georgia, and all but two in Louisiana. In fact, nearly eight-in-ten black primary voters picked Hillary Clinton over him, according to exit polls.

And throughout 2019, Vice President Joe Biden dominated with black voters, comfortably getting as much as half their support nationwide, with no other candidate even in the same ballpark.

But now, that seems to be changing — and it may be the surest sign yet that the train is leaving the station for any of Sanders’ rivals to blunt his momentum heading into Nevada, South Carolina and the diverse Super Tuesday states.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal oversample of black voters finds that Sanders now essentially enjoys the same level of support as Biden among black Democratic primary voters, with each getting the backing of about a third, while no other Democratic candidate comes anywhere close to that.

In fact, the only other candidate demonstrating even a small sign of traction nationally among black primary voters appears to be former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and we’ll note that the poll was in the field before his pummeling over the stop-and-frisk policy on the debate stage Wednesday night.

What’s more, all registered black voters express about the same level of comfort about Sanders as they do about Biden.

A combined 65 percent are either enthusiastic (20 percent) or comfortable (45 percent) with Sanders, while a combined 30 percent express some discomfort. For Biden, it’s a combined 69 percent either enthusiastic (16 percent) or comfortable (53 percent), with 28 percent feeling more negative.

Much of Sanders’ strength here has to do with the same generational differences that we’ve seen among the electorate at large. The lion’s share of Sanders’ support among black primary voters comes from his standing with those under 50, while Biden gets by far the largest share of older African Americans.

By the way, the new numbers from the NBC/WSJ poll dovetail with some other data we saw yesterday: a new Winthrop University poll of South Carolina primary voters that found Sanders cutting Biden’s lead in the state to just five points.

Data Download: The number of the day is… 14 percent

14 percent.

That’s President Trump’s job approval rating with African American registered voters, according to our latest NBC/WSJ oversample of black voters.

Eighty-four percent of them disapprove of the president, with 69 percent saying they disapprove strongly.

There is, however, a significant gender gap. Among black men, 24 percent approve of the president, while among black women, it’s just 6 percent.


Dispatches from NBC’s campaign embeds

Joe Biden, who has been protested throughout the campaign by activists against the deportations done during the Obama administration, said during a CNN town hall that he would halt all deportations in the first 100 days of his tenure, NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor reports. “Nobody is going to be deported in my first 100 days until we get through the part that we find out the only rationale for deportation will be whether or not, whether or not you’ve committed a felony while in the country,” Biden said.