KEY POINTS

  • The percentage of Blacks who voted in 2016 fell for the first time in two decades
  • Polling indicates Democrats can no longer count on blanket Black support
  • Less than half of Black voters younger than 30 plan to vote for Biden

Black voters, especially Black men, could be the deciding factor on Election Day, and both presidential candidates are zeroing in on the demographic group with just 11 days to go in the 2020 race.

Black voter turnout fell in the 2016 election for the first time in two decades, unable to muster much enthusiasm for either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump. Just 59.6% of Black voters turned out, compared to a record 66.6% in 2012.

With President Donald Trump running behind in national polls against Democrat Joe Biden but in tight races in key swing states, that disaffected chunk of voters may be more crucial than normal.

Sam Fulwood III, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a fellow at American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, said in a Hill op-ed Trump enjoys outsize support among young Black men compared to the rest of the Black community, which has traditionally leaned Democratic.

A study released in July by American University indicated fewer than half of Blacks less than 30 years of age planned to vote for Biden; only 8% said they would vote for Trump, with the rest opting for someone else.

“Democrats cannot expect support from this new generation of Black Americans – they have to earn it,” said David Barker, one of the study’s authors and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University.

Fulwood said Black Americans may hold criminal justice reforms in the 1990s against Biden for his role in passing the legislation that had a severe impact on the Black community.

“Younger Black Americans aren’t willing to tolerate voting for the lesser of two evils. They would just as soon stay home than compromise on their idealism,” Fulwood said.

The vote comes after months of protests demanding racial justice following the killings of several Blacks this summer by white police officers.

Trump in 2016 asked Blacks what they had to lose by voting for him. Last month he released his “Platinum Plan for Black Americans,” which promised $500 billion in investments to create jobs for Blacks and make lynching a hate crime nationally. The president frequently has compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, saying he is the president that has done the most for Blacks since the mid-19th century.

Biden is flooding the airwaves with commercials targeting Black men, featuring voters sitting around a barber shop and urging each other to vote.

The Cook Political Report indicates the race is far from decided. Its assessment shows Biden with a solid 188 electoral votes to 77 for Trump, 273 still fluid. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

The polling agency that called Trump’s win in 2016 said the president could pull off a second upset because most other polling agencies ignore what its chief pollster described as the “hidden Trump vote.”