Joe Biden has lost half of his support from black voters after getting sharply criticized at the first Democratic debate for his history when it comes to racial issues, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.
As Yahoo News reports, the poll questioned likely 2020 voters who identify as Democrats in the days immediately following the two-night NBC News Democratic debates. And the poll spells bad news for Biden, particularly when it comes to race issues and black voters.
One exchange that took place last week appears to have resonated strongly with African American voters. California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris criticized the former vice president for his opposition to mandatory busing to integrate schools during the 1970s and for Biden’s willingness to work with segregationist colleagues in the Senate during that time.
Biden has defended his civil rights record and has said that Harris’ criticisms mischaracterized his record.
As for the busing issue, Biden claims that he didn’t oppose busing in general, just that he opposed the way it was mandated by federal authorities at the time. However, as Politifact notes, Biden himself is mischaracterizing his record. As a U.S. senator from Delaware, throughout the 1970s Biden did, indeed, support anti-busing legislation in a variety of different contexts.
As for his record on working with segregationist senators, Biden said that he “got things done” with “civility,” even though he vehemently opposed his colleagues’ beliefs. He’s faced calls to apologize for that statement, as The Associated Press reports, something he has consistently refused to do.
Now it appears that his record on race, brought up by rival Harris at the debates, is costing him support among black voters. Specifically, just two in 10 black Democrat voters support Biden, down from four in 10 supporting him in a June poll.
None other than Kamala Harris herself appears to be getting the support from black voters that Biden is losing. Harris, whose mother is Indian and whose father is a black Jamaican, now has 10 percent of black likely Democrat voters supporting her, the most of any of the more than 20 Democrats seeking the party’s nomination.
None of this is to say that black voters are likely to ditch the Democratic Party and support Donald Trump, however. By and large, black voters tend to vote Democrat, says political scientist Christopher Galdieri. And Galdieri says that black voters aren’t interested in Democrats’ positions on climate change or health care.
“They’re looking for someone who can go head-to-head with Trump,” he says.