2020 poll: SC black Democrats rank candidates in presidential primary

Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a commanding lead — with 51% support — among black Democratic voters in South Carolina who are expected to make up two-thirds of the electorate in February’s presidential primary, a new poll says.

Meanwhile, other candidates are struggling to pick up substantial support among black Democrats in the state: nearly one in five said they were undecided on their top pick. The next most popular candidates among black S.C. voters are Harris, at 12% support, and Sanders, at 10% support, according to Monmouth University’s first S.C. poll in the 2020 cycle, released Thursday.

The poll also found that to beat President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election, S.C. Democratic voters said Biden would have the best chance out of the more than 20 Democrats vying for that opportunity.

According to Monmouth’s polling memo, 41% of likely Democratic voters in South Carolina, who said candidates’ electability played a critical role in their support, picked the former Delaware senator as their top candidate.

Among Democratic voters who said they prioritized issues over electability, Biden still led, capturing support from 37% of Democratic voters surveyed.

The poll surveyed 405 S.C. voters likely to vote in the Feb. 29 Democratic primary, out of 659 registered voters contacted by landline and cell phone for the poll from July 18 to 22. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Biden’s lead among likely S.C. Democratic voters remains strong, despite missteps on the campaign trail and a recent apology tour after two black presidential candidates — U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — criticized his record and remarks on race-related issues.

Earlier this month, Biden apologized during a campaign stop in Sumter for his comments about working with segregationists.

“Was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was. I regret it,” Biden said. “I’m sorry for any of the pain or misconception I may have caused anybody.”

Thirty-five percent of South Carolinians surveyed identified as white, versus 62% who identified as black, the poll said, putting its sample in line with the electorate expected to participate in the upcoming primary.

Among the findings:

Biden maintains a substantial lead among S.C. voters, 39% of whom said they would pick the former vice president if they had to vote right then. The top candidates trailing Biden in the poll were:

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris: 12%

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders: 10%

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren: 9%

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana: 5%

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker: 2%

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke: 1%

In South Carolina, Biden’s largest boost came from the state’s black voters, who make up two-thirds of the state party’s voting bloc.

At 51% among support from black voters, Biden’s support among white Democrats is half that — 24% — according to the poll.

“Despite some supposed missteps on the issue of race, Biden maintains widespread support with this voting bloc,” said Patrick Murray, who heads the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Black Democrats tend to be more moderate than white primary voters. Biden is the best known candidate currently occupying that lane.”

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.