Joe Biden leads Democratic rivals when it comes to enthusiasm among black voters: poll

Much has been made of Biden's friendship with former President Barack Obama, whom he served as Veep for two terms

By Matthew Rozsa

Published June 11, 2019 3:01PM (EDT)

Democratic presidential candidate, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (Getty/Drew Angerer)
Democratic presidential candidate, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (Getty/Drew Angerer)

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the unprecedented field of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates when it comes to enthusiasm among black voters, according to a new poll.

The survey, commissioned by the Black Economic Alliance, found that 76 percent of black voters are either enthusiastic or comfortable with Biden's candidacy. In contrast, 64 percent felt the same way about Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; 53 percent about Sen. Kamala Harris of California; 43 percent about Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; 42 percent about Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; 32 percent about former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas; and just 23 percent about Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

It is possible that the last five candidates polled lower, as they have not yet received high levels of name recognition. While only 5 percent of respondents had not heard of Biden and only 6 percent had not heard of Sanders, 21 percent had not heard of Harris; 25 percent had not heard of Booker; 22 percent had not heard of Warren; 37 percent had not heard of O'Rourke; and 45 percent had not heard of Buttigieg.

The poll's findings are also consistent with a general trend in national polls since the end of the 2016 presidential election, which have usually placed Biden and Sanders among the two front-runners vying for the nomination.

"Black Americans view the economic conditions in the United States as significantly worse for black communities than for the country overall. Fully 72 percent of black Americans say they are dissatisfied with the economic situation for black Americans today — including 37 percent very dissatisfied — compared with 57 percent who are dissatisfied with the state of the U.S. economy in general," the authors of a memorandum accompanying the survey's findings wrote.

Politico also included a quote from Akunna Cook, the executive director of the Black Economic Alliance, who said of Biden, "Obviously, he’s a former vice president. He’s polling very high. [Pete] Buttigieg is the lowest, but he’s also the least familiar of these candidates. So I think that as voters get to know these candidates, they’ll be in a position to really compare them."

Much has been made of Biden's close friendship with former President Barack Obama, whom he served as vice president for two terms. That friendship has helped elevate Biden's name recognition, and at the same time, made him a source of derision among conservatives.

"It’s not even desperation. It’s pathetic . . . He desperately wants Obama’s endorsement, and Obama laughed. So Biden’s trying to make it look like Obama’s his friend. 'He’s my friend, I like Joe, Joe likes me.' 'I like Barack, and Barack likes me,'" right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh reportedly told a caller on his radio show.

He added, "You know, these friendship bracelets? These things are made by 7- and 8-year-old girls — that’s who makes them and wears them."

The former vice president received flak for tweeting a #HappyBestFriends day post to Obama, reportedly prompting former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod to tweet, "This is a joke, right?" (That tweet appears to have since been taken down.)

There are also criticisms of Biden from the left, with some progressives arguing that his record is too moderate on issues such as the #MeToo movement, economic policy, criminal justice reform and climate change.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa