While the results are still early and incomplete, the numbers from a new poll released on Sunday may show that Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden, the former six-term United States Senator and two-term Vice President, has escaped unscathed from what has been the most serious controversy of his campaign so far — his remarks last Tuesday in which he appeared to praise the “civility” of the Senate even when he had to collaborate with hard-line segregationists in the 1970s, as CNN reported.
Biden recalled his work in the Senate with Mississippi Senator James Eastland and Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge, both of whom were lifelong opponents of racial integration, in the controversial remarks. Though Biden singled out Talmadge as “one of the meanest guys I ever knew,” he added that “at least there was some civility” in the Senate during the early 1970s era when Biden was first elected.
Biden’s remarks came under immediate fire, not only in the media but from other Democratic candidates. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and California Senator Kalama Harris were especially vocal in their criticism of Biden, as The Washington Post reported.
But Biden maintains that the remarks were widely misunderstood and taken out of context, according to a CNN report on Sunday.
If the results of a YouGov/Economist poll released on Sunday are any indication, however, voters are buying Biden’s explanation. The poll was conducted from July 16 — the day before Biden’s remarks were first reported — to July 18, the day after. The YouGov/Economist results showed Biden leading the Democratic field with 26 percent.
That percentage was unchanged from a YouGov/Economist poll conducted one week earlier.
The poll also continued to show Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in second place behind Biden, but Warren had slipped from 16 percent to 14 percent in the YouGov poll, while Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders gained a point, ticking up from 12 percent to 13 percent in the nationwide poll.
According to an analysis by the political data site FiveThirtyEight.com, though Biden’s remarks were likely to prove offensive to both black voters and white voters in the Democratic Party, they may not erode his overall support — simply because polls consistently show that those voters like Biden personally.
“Poll after poll has found that Biden has very, very high approval ratings among black voters,” wrote polling analyst Perry Bacon Jr., citing a recent poll by the Black Economic Alliance, finding “that 76 percent of black Democrats are either enthusiastic or comfortable with Biden’s candidacy, compared to just 16 percent who are uncomfortable or have some reservations.”
That rating was higher than the numbers attained by any other candidate.
The YouGov/Economist poll did contain at least some sobering news for Biden, however, with 19 percent saying that they would be “disappointed” if Biden were the Democratic nominee in 2020. Only New York Mayor Bill deBlasio had a worse “disappointment” number, with 25 percent saying they would be disappointed in he were the nominee.