Enthusiasm wanes among Black voters who powered Biden’s 2020 Georgia win

By Thomson Reuters Mar 11, 2024 | 5:03 AM

By Kat Stafford and Jayla Whitfield-Anderson

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Much has changed since Wanda Mosley helped galvanize thousands of Black voters across the battleground state of Georgia to help clinch the 2020 general election for U.S. President Joe Biden.

Excited to head to the polls then, some Black voters now feel disillusioned by a surge in the cost of living and racial justice priorities they feel Biden’s Democrats have yet to deliver on as promised, polls and interviews show.

“They want to understand that their issues are being heard, that their humanity is being acknowledged,” said Mosley, national director of Black Voters Matter, a nonprofit group that works to increase turnout and registration among Black voters.

Massive voter drives backed by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and other Black organizers delivered the state for Biden in 2020, and the Senate for Democrats.

But four years later, Biden’s strength among Black voters nationwide is less certain, as they question Democrats’ commitment to voting rights, tackling white supremacy and other issues dear to them. A Pew Research Center poll in January found Black Americans are divided over Biden’s performance in office – about 49% of Black adults disapproved of it, while 48% approved.

Both Biden and his rival, Republican candidate Donald Trump, visited Georgia on Saturday in an effort to sway voters ahead of Tuesday’s primaries. Results there could serve as an early bellwether of the tough road ahead for Biden before November’s general election to reach Black voters, who historically are the most loyal voting bloc of the Democratic Party. According to Pew, 92% of Black voters backed Biden in 2020.

Opinion polls show the Nov. 5 election shaping up to be a close match between Biden and Trump, making turnout among Black Americans – who comprise sizable populations in key battleground states like Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – a crucial aspect of Biden’s path to victory.

But there are some early warning signs. Nearly a dozen voters, rights advocates and civil rights leaders interviewed by Reuters said Biden’s campaign has a messaging disconnect on the ground in Black communities across the nation, including Georgia, where 33% of the population is Black.

They say some voters feel enough hasn’t been done for them, while others are unaware of Biden’s actions that directly benefited Black Americans like expanding access to healthcare coverage, economic gains that led to record low Black unemployment rates and the Child Tax Credit expansion, which helped cut childhood poverty in half in 2021.

Biden appeared on civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton’s syndicated radio show in January, touting several policies, including federal contracting guidelines and lead pipe removal, aimed at improving access to contracting opportunities for Black businesses and addressing decades of low or reduced infrastructure investment in areas with large Black populations.

After the call, Sharpton said his phone lines were flooded with callers who said it was the first time they heard of those actions. Sharpton said he has met with Biden’s team about two or three times since last March and his message to them is simple – they need to deepen their ties to Black communities.

“I’m trying to tell them this is the feedback I’m getting and you need to fight aggressively on it,” Sharpton told Reuters. “This campaign is gonna be won in between the West Coast and the East Coast. Those people, the ones that I talk to on the radio every day, are not getting this information.”


Across Georgia, a myriad of issues are top of mind for Black voters. Access to healthcare is high on the list: Georgia has some of the worst health outcomes for Black Americans in the nation – it is among a handful of states with the highest Black maternal and infant mortality rates in the country.

Georgia voters are also frustrated by a lack of progress on eliminating roadblocks for Black Americans to vote and blocking efforts to redraw electoral maps that makes it harder for their vote to count, according to voting rights campaigners.

Democrats’ efforts on the issue – including a comprehensive voting rights act to beef up legal protections against discriminatory voting practices – have largely been blocked or limited by Republicans in Congress during Biden’s term.

“Folks are still frustrated by that,” Mosley said. “They should have done what was necessary … whatever it would take to protect our voting rights.”

The Biden campaign said Black voters are a core constituency that the president is focused on winning through an advertising campaign and outreach programs to connect with voters. In Georgia, the campaign is working with local Black leaders and highlighting the president’s actions directly to voters, said Jonae Wartel, senior adviser for the Biden campaign in Georgia.

“At the heart of the work of engaging Black voters in this election is making sure that they know what the president has done,” Wartel told Reuters by phone.

Strategists say it’s unlikely Republicans will receive a significant share of votes from Black Americans. But the possibility that enough voters could switch to the Republican side or stay home altogether could influence the election’s outcome. Republicans see the decline in enthusiasm for Democrats as an opportunity to grow support among Black voters.

“A lot of them are not quite sure that Biden is the answer,” said Georgia Black Republican Council Chairman Camilla Moore. “What we’re seeing in the Black community is a little bit more of a willingness in terms of Republicans being an option.”

Trump’s history of inflammatory rhetoric and comments that have been broadly denounced as racist – including reportedly calling immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from “shithole” countries – has alienated many Black voters over the years. Last month, he said Black voters were more drawn to him after his multiple indictments on criminal charges, drawing sharp rebukes from civil rights advocates and others.


Polls show Black voters also remain deeply alarmed by a rise in white supremacy and white nationalism over the past decade, a threat highlighted by the 2022 mass shooting by a white supremacist who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store. Another killed three Black shoppers at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, last year.

“People are still deeply unsettled by racism and the way that racism continues to show up and be so present for them,” said Adrienne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, a left-leaning political action committee focused on mobilizing Black voters.

To be sure, some campaigners on the ground say the situation is far from dire for Biden. Nsé Ufot, former chief executive of the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan effort to register voters that was instrumental in helping Democrats win the state in 2020, said that while Biden’s campaign has more work to do, robust outreach targeting Black voters is working.

“From the Biden campaign’s perspective that there’s already sort of an early indication of how important this state is,” Ufot said. “I think they’re doing fine.”

Longtime Georgia resident Karl Booker is among those who plan to vote for Biden.

“I think the Black vote is going to be pretty powerful to move Biden over the edge again,” said Booker, owner of the Off The Hook Barbershop in Atlanta. “People always talk about voting for the lesser of two evils. Right now, I feel like Biden is definitely the person to move the country forward for another four years.”

(Reporting by Kat Stafford in Detroit and Jayla Whitfield-Anderson in Atlanta, Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, editing by Deepa Babington)