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How to interpret polls showing Biden losing non-white support

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Is President Biden really having as much trouble among non-white voters — especially black voters — as the polls say?

I saw a lot of skepticism. Among nonwhite voters, a Democratic presidential candidate has not fared as badly as these polls suggest in the results of a presidential election since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. In the case of black voters , the disparity between the usual support for Democrats — around 90 percent or more — and recent polls showing it in the 1970s or even the 1960s just seems too much to accept. Some skeptics think they’ve seen results like this Beforeonly for the Republican force to disappear on Election Day.

But comparing the polls with those of previous election cycles, Mr. Biden’s early weakness looks serious. His support among black, Hispanic and other non-white voters is far below Democrats’ previous lows in pre-election polls in recent decades — including polls from the last presidential election. Yet, at the same time, its weakness is best put into perspective when compared to previous polls rather than the final election results.

Here’s how to interpret what the poll really means for Mr. Biden’s eventual support among nonwhite and especially black voters.

A major source of skepticism about Mr. Biden’s weakness among non-white voters is the sheer magnitude of the decline, based on the difference between early polling results among registered voters and final results estimated in post studies. – electoral, such as the results of exit polls. .

It’s an understandable comparison, but it’s wrong. Millions of people are undecided in today’s polls, while all voters have made up their minds in these post-election studies. The poll of registered voters also includes millions of people who ultimately won’t vote; post-election studies usually only include actual voters.

These two factors – undecided voters and low-turnout voters – help explain many seemingly odd differences between pre-election polls and post-election studies.

To illustrate, consider the following from our New York Times/Siena College poll:

  • Mr. Biden leads, 72% to 11%, among black voters registered over the past year.

  • Mr Biden’s lead among black voters jumps to 79-11 if undecided voters are allocated based on how they say they voted in 2020.

  • He leads 76-10 among black voters with a record turnout in the 2020 general election.

  • His lead among 2020 voters increases to 84-10 if we break down undecided voters by their self-reported 2020 voting preference.

    By comparison, that same group of black voters who turned out in 2020 said they supported Mr. Biden against Donald J. Trump, 89-7, in the last election.

The result: The gap between post-election studies and surveys of registered voters narrows significantly after accounting for the inherent differences between the two measures: undecided voters and turnout.

This lesson is not limited to black voters. To take a different example, Mr. Biden leads by just 46 to 34 among young registered voters in our poll last year, but he leads by 57 to 35 among young 2020 validated voters if we attribute voters undecided based on their 2020 voting preference. His lead among Hispanic voters drops from 47-35 to 56-36 with the same approach. Among Asian American, Native American, multiracial and other non-white voters who are neither black nor Hispanic, that number jumps to 50-39, from 40-39.

Of course, we can’t assume that black, Hispanic, youth, or other voters will vote the way they did in 2020. Nor can we assume that undecided voters will revert to their 2020 preferences. The point is, the differences between the pre-election surveys of registered voters and the final post-election studies explain many of the differences between the survey results by subgroup and your expectations.

If you need to compare the crosstabulations of the polls of registered voters with the final election studies, here’s a tip: focus on the vote share of the major parties. In the case of black voters, Mr. Biden has a 71-12 lead, meaning he has 86 percent of the main party vote in our Times/Siena poll, 71/(71+12)=86. That’s about a five- or six-point gap in the major parties’ vote share is much more likely to reflect reality than comparing its 59-point margin among decided voters (71-12=59) with its margin of 80 points of 2020.

Why the vote share of the major parties? The logic is simple. Imagine that today 17% of potential Biden voters are undecided and 17% of potential Trump voters are undecided. What would that mean for a poll of voters who ultimately vote 86 to 14? They would be today 71 against 12 in the polls.

There’s another aspect of the Skeptics’ case that I sympathize with less: the idea that we always see this kind of weakness among nonwhite voters, and that it just never materializes.

If you look at the polls from previous cycles, it becomes clear that Mr. Biden today is really quite a bit weaker than previous Democrats in the polls of registered voters from previous cycles.

If there’s any consolation for Mr. Biden, it’s that the decline is a little smaller in our Times/Siena poll: In the fall of 2020, our polls had Mr. Biden leading 81-6 among registered black voters, compared to the above. 71-12 in a compilation of the last four Times/Siena polls.

The story is similar among Hispanic voters, who have not shown similar levels of support for previous Republican candidates.

It is now possible that those 2020 numbers were too rosy for Mr Biden, given that polls more generally overestimated his support that year. Maybe you could knock two points off Mr. Biden’s main party vote share in 2020. Either way, it seems clear he’s way behind his standing in the approaching the 2020 elections, while his opponent is at least five points ahead. .

This is a smaller change than the change of more than 20 points implied by the comparison between the polls and the final election studies, but still quite significant. It’s also quite comparable to other demographic shifts in recent years, such as Mr. Trump’s gains among working-class white voters in 2016 or his gains among Hispanic voters in 2020. there, in both cycles, no one imagined Mr. Trump would make 40-point gains in rural Iowa’s Obama counties, then big improvements near the Rio Grande four years later. In the end, he gained about seven points in the major party vote share among those groups nationally — about the same change seen in today’s polls.

If you’re still skeptical of Mr. Trump’s ability to gain traction among nonwhite voters, it’s worth remembering that there’s another possibility: Many disillusioned or disgruntled nonwhite voters could simply stay home.

That possibility seems especially plausible today, when much of Mr. Biden’s weakness is concentrated among younger voters and those without a solid voting record. That’s exactly what happened in the last midterm elections, when the black share of the electorate fell to its lowest level in several decades amid weak polls for Democrats.

Looking back over the past few decades, there’s a clear relationship between the racial turnout gap — the difference between white and black turnout — and the proportion of registered black voters who support Democrats in pre-election polls since then. 1980. Or put it another way: When black voters don’t support Democrats, they tend not to vote.

It is possible that black voters who support Mr. Trump in today’s polls will finally run for him next November. But for now, when I see Mr. Biden’s share among black voters slipping in the 60s and 70s in the polls, I mostly see a further drop in the share of black voters, at least “if the election had place today”.

If there is good news for Mr. Biden, it is that the election is still 14 months away.



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