By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — President Joe Biden’s popularity has plummeted over his first year in office, but his poll woes are particularly alarming among a traditionally loyal Democratic Party constituency: the black voter.
Biden’s approval rating has dropped an astonishing 32 percentage points among Wisconsin’s black voters since July. according to the latest Marquette University Law School Poll. The Democrat’s support fell from 88 percent to 56 percent in late March among African-American respondents. His disapproval rating has consequently climbed from 10 percent to 43 percent over the eight-month period.
Marvin Pratt, who served as Milwaukee’s first black acting mayor in 2004 and as interim Milwaukee County Executive in 2011, said it’s a tough time to be president. The Democrat attributes the slumping numbers to a deeply divided electorate and a Republican Party ready to pounce on Biden miscues. There have been many opportunities to pounce.
But Pratt acknowledges that the president isn’t an inspirational figure.
“Biden just doesn’t fire people up,” he said. “Biden doesn’t turn us on that much, but he’s still better than the alternative.”
Pratt was among many lukewarm voters for Biden in the 2020 election. He told PBS just days before the hotly contested presidential election that most black voters in Milwaukee were “voting anti-Trump.”
“Are they jumping up and down for Joe Biden? Not necessarily,” he told the news outlet.
It’s admittedly hard to energize voters of any demographic when you are not very energetic. The oldest president in U.S. history seems even older than his 79 years. A Fox News poll in November found 53 percent of respondents believed Biden’s age is “interfering with his ability to serve effectively as president.”
Black voters aren’t the only members of the electorate that say Biden has failed to articulate his message. That might have something to do with the fact that the administration’s message seems to be constantly changing.
Pratt believes Biden isn’t getting much help in Wisconsin from fellow Democrat, Gov. Tony Evers.
“I’m not saying the governor is weak, but he’s not as strong as the other governors. It’s not like he has coattails to help the president,” Pratt said.
Evers’ job approval rating was 50 percent in early March, according to the Marquette Law School poll at the time. He had been underwater in October, with 45 percent approval to 46 percent disapproval. Evers’ approval rating still is off 15 percentage points from its high water mark in March 2020.
Biden’s support among black voters has dramatically dropped just about everywhere.
Roughly two-thirds of black Protestants (65%) approve of the job that Biden is doing as president, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in February. That was down sharply from 92 percent in March 2021, shortly after he took office.
An NBC News poll around the same time found Biden’s approval rating among black voters declined from 83 percent to 64 percent during his first year in office. Quinnipiac University’s surveys echoed the trend, with Biden’s support among African American voters sinking from 78 percent to 57 percent.
His party — in control of Congress, as well — has failed to deliver on its so-called Freedom to Vote Act, sold as a critical voter rights bill. An analysis by New York Magazine asserts that the issue is not on most Americans’ political radar.
“When Gallup asked U.S. voters to name their nation’s ‘most important problem’ in December, only one percent said ‘elections’ or ‘election reform,’” the publication reported.
Only 21 percent of black respondents said that they had “heard a lot” about the Freedom to Vote Act, according to a poll from the Democratic firm Navigator Research.
Inflation has become a big concern among black voters, as it has for just about every voter. Black women and Hispanic men voiced the highest level of worry about rising prices (each at 44) percent, according to a poll last month by the Wall Street Journal.
Cindy Werner, one of three black candidates running for Wisconsin lieutenant governor as Republicans, said family members who voted for Biden are feeling the negative impacts on their pocketbooks — a different economic situation than during the Trump years.
“A clear example is the cost of food. Even the ladies I still mentor that are on public housing can not stretch their EBT dollars like they did two years ago,” Werner said.
Many have voter’s remorse, she added.
“I find this happening on the campaign trail within my black community, the impact of feeling the pain at the pump or at the grocery store are issues that are hitting home. Enough to change voting patterns? We will see,” Werner said.
Biden’s vaccine mandate didn’t sit well with a lot of black voters, either. COVID fatigue in general is a big problem, Pratt said.
“People are just COVID tired, with all the masks and the mandates,” he said.
Biden has all kinds of polling problems among most demographics. In Wisconsin, his favorability rating is a low 44 percent, according to the Marquette Law School Poll. That’s better than NBC’s latest national poll, which tracks him at just 40 percent, also a low.
Pratt said Biden needs some victories in the coming months to bring back black voters and bring up his slumping poll numbers in general. Senate approval of his Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, a black woman, would be a big boost, he said.
“I think the ’22 election will tell a lot,” he said.