Joe Biden’s pick of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) as his vice presidential running mate on Aug. 11 will likely boost enthusiasm for him among Black voters, said Alvin Tillery, associate professor of political science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
“Joe Biden’s decision to select Kamala Harris as his running mate means that for the first time in American history a Black woman will be on the presidential ticket of one of the two major parties. Sen. Harris has also proved in recent weeks that she is an ardent campaigner and fundraiser for Biden,” Tillery said.
Biden as a bridge
“Perhaps the most important dimension of this selection is that it shows that Vice President Biden is not nurturing any petty grudges from the primary debates and that he is completely comfortable serving as a bridge to the next generation of diverse leaders. This is a winning pick for the Biden campaign in every way imaginable.”
Earlier this summer, a poll conducted by Northwestern’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy (CSDD), for which Tillery is the director, found that African-Americans said they will be more enthusiastic about voting for Joe Biden if he selects an African-American woman as his running mate for vice president.
Most reliable voting bloc
“We expected to find this to be the case among African-American women — the Democratic Party’s most reliable voting bloc — but we also found that this trend holds for African-American men as well,” Tillery said.
The survey, conducted by Cloud Research/Prime Panels on behalf of the CSDD, showed that Harris and former Georgia legislator Stacey Abrams were seen as favorites for the nomination.
The online survey, conducted May 27-31, interviewed more than 2,600 African-Americans about their views of the 2020 presidential election and their preferences for Biden to select an African-American woman as his running mate.
Among the findings
- 57% of the respondents said that they would be more enthusiastic about voting for Biden if he picks an African-American woman to be his running mate.
- 29% of the respondents preferred Harris for Biden’s running mate; 28% preferred Abrams; 24% preferred former national security advisor Susan Rice, and 20% preferred U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Florida
- 59% of the African-American women who responded to the survey said that they would be more enthusiastic about voting for Biden if he picks an African-American woman to be his running mate.
- 50% of African-American women respondents said that they are more likely to campaign for Biden if he selects an African-American woman versus 40% who said that they will campaign for him regardless of the outcome of the vice presidential search process.
“The reality for Biden is that he needs to do everything that he can to maximize African-American turnout and selecting an African-American woman as his running mate looks like a big step in that direction,” Tillery said.
The gender distribution of the sample was 51% female, 49% male. And 71% of the respondents voted in the 2016 presidential election. In addition, 68% of the respondents are affiliates of the Democratic Party; 19% consider themselves to be political independents; 7% affiliate with the Republican Party.
“Black women are successful in mobilizing others to support Democratic candidates,” said Nadia Brown, associate professor of political science and African American studies at Purdue University, who collaborated with Tillery.
See the complete survey as well as other surveys by the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy.