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US Election: Young Black voters say they aren't enthusiastic about a Joe Biden presidency

Young Black voters say they aren't enthusiastic about a Joe Biden presidency Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the 16th Street Baptist Church in...

Young Black voters say they aren't enthusiastic about a Joe Biden presidency
Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham for the 56th anniversary of the bombing there.Credit...Dustin Chambers for The New York Times

WASHINGTON – Perry Green doesn’t believe that Joe Biden is listening to what young, Black Americans want right now.

Across the country, young people are protesting systemic racism and calling on political leaders to reallocate funding from local police to other community resources. Green, who is Black, criticized Biden for not supporting the “Defund the Police” movement that many activists support.

“You got Black youth across the country, calling for defunding the police and thinking differently about law enforcement, and ... a couple days later, in the midst of all the protests … (Biden’s) campaign says 'Let's spend more money on community policing,'" Green told USA TODAY.

Green, 34, lives in Alameda, California, and said he's still undecided on whether he will vote for Biden after supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. But he added if he was living in a swing state like Ohio, Michigan or Pennsylvania, he would be voting for Biden.

"I think that if I were to see the campaign attempt to engage with more grassroots leaders, that would make me feel a little more encouraged about voting for Biden," Green said.

With the November election four months away, polling shows Biden's support with younger Black voters trailing significantly behind that of older Black voters. And while polls show the majority of young Black voters support Biden over President Donald Trump, many are unenthusiastic at best or hesitant at worst.

Black voters of all ages have been a pillar of the Democratic party's coalition for decades and strong turnout from the Black community, particularly in key battleground states such as Michigan and Florida, will be key for Biden to take the White House in November.

"I think this is a time for Joe Biden to be explicitly clear on his stances," said Stefanie Brown James, who led Obama for America's effort to engage African American leaders and voters in 2012. "Don't skirt around the issue. Talk to these young people directly, and then have policies that he's championing to show how he wants to push for this progressive change to happen."

Data shows split between older and younger Black voters
Younger voters who came of age during President Obama's administration, where Biden was vice president, have higher expectations of their politicians, and likely want to see a more progressive Democrat in office, said Chryl Laird, assistant professor of government at Bowdoin College and author of “Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior."

“(Young Black voters) are going to have some reservations about Joe Biden,” Laird said, adding that Biden represents “a very clear image of a status quo politician within the Democratic Party.”

Older voters, and particularly older Black voters, are more pragmatic when it comes to deciding who to vote for because they have seen that change takes time, Laird said.

Biden has had “moments of problematic commentary or statements,” Laird said. “And they don't really see him as the direction that takes the party in a more progressive lean.”

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