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Virginia and North Carolina exit polls highlight Joe Biden’s strength with black voters

Early data suggests that Bernie Sanders is struggling to expand his base among black voters.

Fayetteville State University students get off a “Black Votes Matter” bus in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on March 3, 2020.
Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

Joe Biden’s strength among black voters was evident on Super Tuesday.

Early exit polls in Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama echoed a similar breakdown as the one observed during the South Carolina primary: Biden won a majority of black voters, beating Bernie Sanders by a significant margin in all three places.

Biden’s victories in this trio of states were driven heavily by his success with black voters, who make up 27 percent of the Democratic electorate in both Virginia and North Carolina, and 44 percent in Alabama. These outcomes underscore just how much Biden continues to resonate with black voters, highlighting a possible challenge for Sanders — one he dealt with in 2016 as well — as the primary continues.

Much like in South Carolina, Sanders appeared to do better with younger black voters in the states compared to older voters. While he still lost among black voters ages 30 to 44 in Virginia, for example, he lagged by 11 points among the group. Among black voters 45 to 59 in the state, meanwhile, he lagged by 50 points.

These polls offer an early but incomplete glimpse of how voters ultimately decided in these states’ primaries.

The trend they show, however, could well spell trouble for Sanders. While Sanders has been polling strongly with African American voters nationally, he lost black voters by a huge margin in South Carolina, where he won 17 percent support and Biden came away with 61 percent.

Sanders performed solidly with black voters in a series of national polls published last week, including one from Reuters/Ipsos that showed him 3 points ahead of Biden in support. Since the results he continues to bring in don’t match up with the national surveys, however, it suggests that Sanders is continuing to struggle to make inroads with this critical Democratic constituency.

Joe Biden supporters cheer during a campaign event in Norfolk, Virginia, March 1, 2020.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Super Tuesday states including North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and California were seen as ones that could offer additional insights into Sanders’s support among black voters — and his ability to build a more diverse coalition.

“The South Carolina results certainly weren’t great for Sen. Sanders’s optics, but black voters aren’t a monolith,” Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, recently told Vox. “Super Tuesday is the real test — we have enormous, diverse states like California and Texas as well as states with multiracial electorates like North Carolina, Virginia, and Alabama.”

In the states where data has come in so far, it appears that Sanders is still lagging Biden — by a pretty big margin — and struggling to expand his base among black voters.

Virginia exit polls, broken out by demographics

With its 99 delegates, Virginia is among the top prizes on Super Tuesday, behind the more populous Texas and California. And the results in the state closely reflected some of the same demographic breakdowns that we saw in South Carolina — though Elizabeth Warren performed a bit better, while Mike Bloomberg’s candidacy served as an added variable.

Here’s the Washington Post’s breakdown among demographics:

White voters:

  • Biden — 43 percent
  • Sanders — 26 percent
  • Warren — 14 percent
  • Bloomberg — 12 percent

Black voters:

  • Biden — 63 percent
  • Sanders — 18 percent
  • Warren — 7 percent
  • Bloomberg — 10 percent

Here’s CNN’s breakdown among demographics:

White voters:

  • Biden — 43 percent
  • Sanders — 26 percent
  • Warren — 14 percent
  • Bloomberg — 12 percent

Black voters:

  • Biden — 63 percent
  • Sanders — 18 percent
  • Warren — 7 percent
  • Bloomberg — 10 percent

North Carolina exit polls, broken out by demographics

North Carolina has 110 delegates on offer, making it the largest Super Tuesday delegate prize on the East Coast. Its demographic breakdown shows Biden with a margin among black voters similar to what he won in South Carolina on Saturday and Virginia Tuesday, while Warren and Sanders performed slightly worse.

Despite Biden’s strength throughout the South, the state was also one that the Sanders campaign thought could the Vermont senator could perform well in, but exit polls indicate that Sanders might not get the result he was looking for.

Here’s the Washington Post’s breakdown among demographics:

White voters:

  • Biden — 36 percent
  • Sanders — 25 percent
  • Warren — 14 percent
  • Bloomberg — 11 percent

Black voters:

  • Biden — 63 percent
  • Sanders — 16 percent
  • Warren — 5 percent
  • Bloomberg — 10 percent

Here’s CNN’s breakdown among demographics:

White voters:

  • Biden — 36 percent
  • Sanders — 25 percent
  • Warren — 14 percent
  • Bloomberg — 11 percent

Black voters:

  • Biden — 63 percent
  • Sanders — 16 percent
  • Warren — 5 percent
  • Bloomberg — 10 percent

Alabama exit polls, broken out by demographics

Biden’s strength with black voters was even more apparent in Alabama on Tuesday: According to exit polls, the former veep won better than 70 percent of the African American vote there on his way to winning the state outright.

While Alabama’s delegate trove is smaller than either Virginia or North Carolina — Biden’s first two Super Tuesday victories — it still has 52 delegates up for grabs, almost as many as South Carolina.

Here’s CNN’s breakdown among demographics:

White voters:

  • Biden — 51 percent
  • Sanders — 24 percent
  • Warren — 7 percent
  • Bloomberg — 8 percent

Black voters:

  • Biden — 72 percent
  • Sanders — 12 percent
  • Warren — 4 percent
  • Bloomberg — 9 percent

Texas exit polls, broken out by demographics

Texas has a whopping 228 delegates up for grabs on Tuesday, making it a major target for pretty much all the frontrunners. The state is also quite diverse — 51 percent of the state’s overall population is Hispanic or Latino — and offers an indication of which candidates resonate with a broad electorate.

Biden and Sanders’s margins are quite close among white voters, but they each have respective strengths among black voters and Hispanic voters in state. Biden has strong support from black voters in the state, while Sanders wins with Hispanic voters by a wide margin, continuing a trend that played out in Nevada as well.

Here’s CNN’s breakdown among demographics:

White voters:

  • Biden — 30 percent
  • Sanders — 32 percent
  • Warren — 15 percent
  • Bloomberg — 11 percent

Black voters:

  • Biden — 60 percent
  • Sanders — 18 percent
  • Warren — 5 percent
  • Bloomberg — 14 percent

Hispanic voters:

  • Biden — 24 percent
  • Sanders — 45 percent
  • Warren — 7 percent
  • Bloomberg — 17 percent