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Aug. 6, 2020, 3:09 p.m. EDT

The real swing voters are young Black Americans — and they’re not sold on Biden or on voting

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By David C. Barker and Sam Fulwood III

Most political analysts define “ swing voters ” as those who swing their support from one party to the other between election cycles — determining winners and losers in the process.

According to this conventional wisdom, the “swingiest” voters are  working-class whites  in the Midwest, who supposedly hold the  keys to the White House .

Meanwhile, by contrast, pundits often portray Black Americans as an undifferentiated mass – loyal Democrat-supporting foot soldiers who will execute their mission for The Team on Tuesday as long as some  preacher provides the right marching orders  on Sunday.

If these depictions have not already expired, they are certainly growing stale. Having  studied electoral trends for decades , we can tell you that those undecided voters of the past are an  endangered species  — in the Midwest and elsewhere. These days, the only choice that most Americans make — indeed, the choice that typically “swings” the election outcome — is whether to vote at all.

That brings us to the characterization of Black Americans as Democratic loyalists.

Our new  survey  of 1,215 African Americans in battleground states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia — reveals that while those over 60 remain among the most reliable of Democratic voters, and those between 40-59 are still pretty locked in as well, those under 30 (whom we oversampled to comprise half of our sample) are anything but.

Only  47%  of those Black Americans under 30 years old that we surveyed plan to vote for the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden. That’s roughly the same percentage who have  anything positive to say  when asked what “one or two words come to mind” about the former vice president.

Cathy Cohen, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago who studies Black youths’ political views, summed up this attitude in a recent  podcast : “They’ve seen the election of Black mayors, they’ve seen the election of the first Black president, and they’ve also seen that their lives have not changed.”

These young Black Americans may well sit things out in November, just as  many of them did in 2016  when their behavior  swung that election to Trump  as much as anything else did.

In our poll,  31%  of Black Americans under 30 say they probably won’t vote in this election. That may sound pretty good, given the  average U.S. voter turnout of around 60% in recent elections .

But survey respondents of all stripes tend to  wildly overestimate their intention to vote. Indeed, about  half  of our Black survey respondents under 30 say they don’t often vote because it “doesn’t make a difference,” providing a somewhat more realistic estimate of the percentage who will probably just stay home — and not search for a stamp to mail in their ballot, either.

And that number does not even take into account the turnout-depressing effects of  voter suppression  efforts taking place across the country, the pandemic or the heavy distrust of mail-in voting that young Black people tend to express. Only  64%  of young people in our sample say they trust the state to report their vote accurately, and only  30%  say they plan to take advantage of mail-in voting.

Such cynicism on the part of young Black Americans is reflected in the lukewarm feelings they tend to have toward the Democratic Party more generally.

Only  47%  of them say that the party is welcoming to Black Americans, and only  43%  say they trust Democrats in Congress to do what’s best for the Black community. Perhaps most strikingly, unlike their older counterparts, only  half  of those under 30 view the Democrats as any better than the Republicans on these scores.

Read: From Obama on down, there’s just empty rhetoric from the black political class amid George Floyd protests

In both the survey responses and in the focus groups we conducted of young Black Americans in these same states, we heard repeated frustration toward what they view as a Democratic Party that expects their vote but doesn’t really do anything to deserve it other than claim to be “less racist” than the alternative.

As one of our focus group respondents put it, “I think at the end of the day, they all have the same agenda.”

In short, it appears that for Black America, the future is not necessarily “blue.” Electorally speaking, it is not necessarily anything at all. Moving forward, young Black Americans may be the real  “swing voters”  in the only way that term really makes much sense anymore.

Also read: Trump appeared to be gaining with Latino voters — but coronavirus may cost him crucial support

David C. Barker is a government professor and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University’s School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. Sam Fulwood III is a fellow at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. This article was first published by The Conversation — ” Young Black Americans not sold on Biden, the Democrats or voting

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