Biden continues outreach to Black voters amid slipping support

White House — President Joe Biden continues his outreach effort among Black voters this week with a string of events to commemorate civil rights milestones and address the next generation of leaders.

Ahead of the November presidential election, his campaign is aiming to address an apparent erosion of support among a group that historically backs Democratic Party candidates.

On Friday, Biden delivered an address at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, where he targeted his likely opponent, presumptive Republican nominee former President Donald Trump.

“My predecessor and his extreme MAGA friends are responsible for taking away our fundamental freedoms, from the freedom to vote to the freedom to choose,” Biden said, referring to Make America Great Again Trump supporters, and Republican efforts to restrict voting and abortion rights.

The Trump campaign said their candidate is “surging with Black and Hispanic Americans” despite Biden’s “persistent gaslighting and the multimillion-dollar ad buys he is forced to make.”

“Black and Hispanic voters, like all Americans, are worse-off now than they were under President Trump — by a lot — and every poll reflects that reality,” Trump campaign press secretary Karoline Leavitt said in a statement sent to VOA.

“They have less money and higher prices for everything while being forced to live under a weak president who puts illegal immigrants’ interests ahead of theirs,” she said.

Trump has been courting Black voters, including by using his legal troubles to appeal to them on the theme of unfair persecution by the criminal justice system.

“I got indicted a second time and a third time and a fourth time, and a lot of people said that that’s why the Black people like me, because they have been hurt so badly and discriminated against, and they actually viewed me as I’m being discriminated against,” Trump said during a February speech at the Black Conservative Federation’s annual gala, at which he received the “Champion of Black America” award.

Targeting young Black voters

Aiming to win over young Black voters, Biden met Friday with leaders of the Divine Nine, a group of historically Black sororities and fraternities, social organizations in colleges and universities.

His engagements followed a private meeting Thursday with plaintiffs and family members from Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision that found laws promoting segregation are unconstitutional.

Biden is set to cap his outreach with a commencement address at Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater, the historically Black, all-male Morehouse College in Atlanta on Sunday. Biden will focus his remarks on the next generation of Black men, a group whose support for the president has been slipping.

His speech comes in the wake of campus protests across the country, where young progressives voice their frustration with Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

Many of those protesting have linked Palestinian activism with other global injustices, including racism toward Black Americans.

“Black people who are concerned about social justice in spaces that are not in the U.S. are similarly thinking about social justice in the U.S.,” said Dana Williams, dean of the Howard University Graduate School and part of the Howard Initiative on Public Opinion, the school’s research arm.

“That kind of affinity towards justice, a pushback against oppression, an expectation for democracy to be enacted with fairness, and an anticipation for democracy to be enacted in earnest, I think are some of the things that link those causes,” she told VOA.

Asked whether Biden is sympathetic to Black students who see a parallel of their experience of discrimination with that of Palestinians, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told VOA that Biden is “sympathetic to the fact that many communities are in pain.”

“He knows that it is a difficult time, and he respects that,” she said during Friday’s briefing.

Biden is set to end the weekend with an address at a dinner in Detroit for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a leading civil rights organization, and a visit to a Black-owned small business in the city.

The Biden campaign said the engagement was a signal of how the administration is working to earn the support of Black voters and addressing their key priorities.

“We are not, and will not, parachute into these communities at the last minute, expecting their vote,” Trey Baker, a senior adviser to the campaign, said in a statement.

Polls slipping

Black voters have long been the backbone of the Democratic Party and helped ensure Biden’s win in 2020. Ahead of the November election, a Washington Post/Ipsos poll shows Biden continues to enjoy the support of the majority of the Black community.

However, lower stated interest in voting relative to 2020 and a slightly narrower gap in standing present some warning signs for the Biden campaign. Only 62% of Black voters said that they are absolutely certain to vote this year, compared to 74% this time in 2020.

Meanwhile, Black voter support in national and state polls for Trump has been “surprisingly robust,” according to research by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“Older Black voters have far fewer concerns with Biden. They remember the first Trump term, and it’s a pretty simple choice for them — Biden, of course,” said Larry Sabato, the center’s director. “It’s younger Blacks who were expecting more from Biden.”

Many young Black voters are frustrated by what they see as Biden’s inaction on their top priorities and angered by his handling of the economy and the Israel-Hamas war.

Sabato predicted that no more than 13% of Black Americans will end up voting for Trump. He said that for Blacks it is a choice between Biden and not voting.

“Black turnout,” he added, “is key.”