How race relations could impact the presidential election

June 09, 2020, 3:24 PM UTC

Former Vice President Joe Biden maintains a seven-digit lead over President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll. Nearly nine in ten self-identified Republicans and Democrats favor their party’s candidate. This week, Independents are closely divided; last week they favored President Trump by seven points.   

Presidential politics

Biden’s support from black Americans, while high, is not as overwhelming as the vote other Democratic candidates have received. Nearly four in five currently say they will vote for him, but according to the 2016 exit polls, that is ten points lower than the 89 percent that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received.  

However, Biden’s support from white voters is currently stronger than Clinton’s was: four years ago, then-candidate Trump carried a majority (57%) of white voters, Clinton just 37 percent. This week, fewer than half of registered white voters say they will vote for the incumbent president.  

There is a huge difference in how black Americans (and the public in general) view the two candidates when it comes to the question of whether the two men care about the problems of black Americans in the country.  

Although one in four black Americans in the poll doubt Biden’s expressed concern, nearly all black Americans seem convinced that President Trump doesn’t care much, or at all. But, President Trump claims he does: he tweeted Wednesday about his commitment to African-Americans, stating he has done more for “Black Americans, in fact, than any President in US history with the possible exception of … Abraham Lincoln.”  

On both questions, men and women give similar answers. More than half of Republican identifiers (of whom only 4% are black) say Donald Trump cares a great deal about black Americans, a higher percentage than Democrats who say Biden cares a great deal.  

Both candidates have been criticized recently – Biden for his claim that a black person who doesn’t vote for him “ain’t black,” something for which he has now apologized, and the president for his handling of the protests against the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Four in five (82%) black Americans disapprove of how the president handled those protests – two-thirds strongly disapprove. 

Biden has committed to naming a woman as his vice-presidential running mate, and most Democratic voters — white and black, male and female — agree with that promise. Fewer believe that he should name a black running mate, something that has been suggested since Biden’s “ain’t black” comment.  

Many Democratic voters aren’t sure what Biden should do. One in four don’t have an opinion about naming a woman; twice as many withhold judgment on whether a black running mate is necessary.  

When Democratic primary voters are asked to indicate whom they think Biden should name as his running mate, female names predominate (though most voters don’t volunteer anyone specific). Nearly one in five black Democratic voters volunteer a woman’s name. The largest number in that group name a black woman: California Senator Kamala Harris, followed by former First Lady Michelle Obama. Smaller numbers name former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. For white Americans, Warren and Harris are the top two picks.  

Although Biden is leading in polls now, he remains very slightly behind the president when people are asked their thoughts about the economy if each man is elected. As many registered voters say the economy would improve (40%) as get worse (40%) if President Trump is re-elected; two in five (40%) say the economy would get worse with Biden while 35 percent think it would get better. Half the country continues to approve of how President Trump is handling jobs and the economy. 

But Biden’s biggest challenge is in convincing voters he will win. Despite his seven-point lead in voter preference, the president enjoys the same lead when voters are asked whom they think will win. More than a quarter of Biden’s own voters aren’t sure he can win. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll 

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Image: Getty