Bernie Sanders’ popularity with black voters

Despite the attempts of the media and the Democratic party establishment to paint a portrait that Bernie Sanders lacks support among black voters, the reality is quite different, as Ryan Grim reports.

Despite a persistent notion that his supporters are disproportionately white male “bros,” the new survey suggests that Sanders is actually slightly more popular among black Democratic voters than white ones, indicating that the narrative that developed during the 2016 campaign may no longer hold, if it ever did.

Sanders’s support among black voters, at 28 percent, puts him in second place among that demographic, behind Biden, at 32 percent. He trailed Biden 31-25 among whites.

Grim says that there is a class element at play too.

There appears to be a strong class element at play in the finding. The same poll found that the demographics Sanders is least popular with — at 19 and 17 percent, respectively — are Democrats who make more than $100,000 per year and Democrats who have post-graduate degrees (two qualities that typically, if not always, overlap). Because of structural wealth and income gaps, that population is heavily white.

Sanders, meanwhile, receives his strongest support support from those making less than $50,000 — a group that is, for the same reasons, much more diverse. The poll found that 30 percent of those with the lowest incomes backed Sanders.

There was some good news overnight that Hillary Clinton and Michael Bloomberg both said that they would not be running for the presidency, though Clinton later denied that she had definitely closed the door to it. But Bloomberg’s withdrawal may be seen by fellow billionaire vanity candidate Howard Schultz as providing an opening to run, and Clinton’s withdrawal means that her neoliberal clone Biden may feel encouraged to run.

I have never been a fan of Biden, ever since his cowardly and appalling performance during the Clarence Thomas hearings where Anita Hill was treated shamefully. Despite the fact that he had such a long career in Congress, I am hard-pressed to think of what he actually stands for and his genial verbose shtick long ago wore thin for me.

In the March issue of Harper’s Magazine, Andrew Cockburn has a detailed examination what he calls “Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy” on so many issues including civil rights pushing for tough sentencing laws.

Despite pleas from the NAACP and the ACLU, the 1990s brought no relief from Biden’s crime crusade. He vied with the first Bush Administration to introduce ever more draconian laws, including one proposing to expand the number of offenses for which the death penalty would be permitted to fifty-one. Bill Clinton quickly became a reliable ally upon his 1992 election, and Biden encouraged him to “maintain crime as a Democratic initiative” with suitably tough legislation. The ensuing 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed with enthusiastic administration pressure, would consign millions of black Americans to a life behind bars.

While many black Americans will neither forgive nor forget how they, along with relatives and friends, were accorded the lifetime stigma of a felony conviction, many other Americans are only now beginning to count the costs of these viciously repressive initiatives. As a result, criminal justice reform has emerged as a popular issue across the political spectrum, including among conservatives eager to burnish otherwise illiberal credentials. Ironically, this has led, in theory, to a modest unraveling of a portion of Biden’s bipartisan crime-fighting legacy.

Cockburn says that Biden’s friendliness towards big business and the big banks is legendary. So why the interest in Biden? It is the same old story.

Given Biden’s all too evident shortcomings in the fields of domestic and foreign policy, defenders inevitably retreat to the “electability” argument, which contends that he is the only Democrat on the horizon capable of beating Trump—a view that Biden, naturally, endorses. Specifically, this notion rests on the belief that Biden has unequaled appeal among the white working-class voters that many Democrats are eager to court.

But electability was also Hillary Clinton’s main argument and we saw how that ended up.

You can read more about Biden’s negative legacy here.

The Democratic party needs to nominate someone who genuinely represents the interests of the disenfranchised people in this country and will aggressively take that fight to the Republicans. Biden is not that person.


  1. anat says

    Do you have info on preferences of black women vs black men? Because black women appear to be the most sensible demographic of voters, so I’m interested in their views.

    If I had the magic power to select one candidate among those running or likely to be running and make them president, I pick Warren. But if she runs against Trump the coverage will all be about AncestryGate and it might end up worse than EMAILs/Benghazi together.

    If by the time I vote in primaries it is down to Bernie vs Biden my choice is obvious, but if more candidates are still around I need more strategic thinking.

  2. lanir says

    I hadn’t heard of Biden before he became vice president. Mostly I recall his tenure in that role for the occasional slip-up where he’d blurt something out that wasn’t quite ready for public consumption yet.

    I don’t think that’s a good look for a leader. If it was a deliberate strategy, it sounds like a cowardly one where you can walk back what you said and say you misspoke. If it’s accidental, that’s also not good because I think most of us want a president who can compartmentalize information and handle running the country without tripping over his own tongue. We have an ugly version of that right now and I’d rather replace it entirely rather than just settle for less racism and better grammar.

  3. Mano Singham says

    anat @#2,

    I do not have the data you seek but will see if there is any.

    The idea that they might be the most sensible demographic makes sense to me because they face a double whammy of both gender and race discrimination and so politics is not a game for them.

  4. says


    This poll doesn’t smell right.

    First, Biden came in first? That alone ought to be a big red flag. Not that the poll is wrong or bent, but rather that the pool of voters and the questions they were asked missed the mark.

    Second, primary voters are traditional, older long-time, party voters. I don’t think that that demographic will swing either the primary or the general election in 2020. I suspect that those polled seriously skewed way over 30-years-old and the under-30s are looking more and more likely to be the powervoters next year.

    From where I sit, any polling at this point is meaningless. The primary, let alone the general, election are still far over the event horizon.

    On a personal note, I donated more than $1,000 to Bernie in 2016, but, while I’ll vote for him if he wins the nomination, I’ll not be sending him any money in 2020. I don’t have a candidate, but I do have a hierarchy with African American Women at the top of my list and European American Males on the bottom.


  5. polishsalami says

    I think the Democrats are at a crossroads. A party of socially-liberal millionaires isn’t going to cut it against plutocratic authoritarianism. The Ds either become a proper ‘social democratic’ party, or they disappear.

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