Biden, Sanders compete for minority voters in Michigan | Michigan Radio
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Biden, Sanders compete for minority voters in Michigan

Mar 9, 2020

Michigan is a large, diverse state, and presidential candidates have been courting minority voters here in the days leading up to Tuesday’s primaries.

For a closer look at the influence of minority populations in this election cycle, Michigan Radio Morning Edition host Doug Tribou spoke with Michigan State University political science professor Nazita Lajevardi.

Here are some key points from the interview (which you can hear in its entirety above):

Minority support for Sanders, Biden

“I've been seeing a lot of changes in the days before the primary election. [Bernie] Sanders had quite a strong lead among people of color as well as whites in [Michigan]. [Joe] Biden had a slightly larger lead among Latinos at that time, but the differences were statistically insignificant. Super Tuesday seems to have changed all of that," Lajevardi said. "We see that the gap has actually narrowed quite a bit. It seems like Sanders continues to hold a substantial lead for whites, but for people of color, the narrative has changed. Sanders is leading very narrowly for African-Americans, but Biden has risen in the ranks. He's a very close second.”

Biden and black voters

“In the days following Super Tuesday, I conducted a survey of Michigan voters, and I found that black 

"People tend to think that Muslim voters would not be willing to vote for a Jewish candidate, and that's just simply not true."

Americans actually are very much in support of Joe Biden. But I think that we have to think very critically about the fact that African-American voters are individuals who not only are moderate, but they're very strategic. So they want to elect a candidate who they believe is going to have the best chance of beating Donald Trump.”

Muslim-American voting trends have shifted in the past 20 years

Muslim Americans tended to vote Republican before the George W. Bush administration, but now there's strong Muslim-American support for Democrats, specifically Bernie Sanders.

“The 2000 election was a really wonderful time to see Muslim-Americans come together and really try to build a political bloc. What has changed since then, of course, are the attacks on 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, numerous surveillance programs throughout the country," Lajevardi said. 

"African-American voters are individuals who not only are moderate, but they're very strategic. So they want to elect a candidate who they believe is going to have the best chance of beating Donald Trump.”

"The positionality of Muslim Americans really began to shift and so did their political calculus. They have definitely come behind Bernie Sanders. People tend to think that Muslim voters would not be willing to vote for a Jewish candidate, and that's just simply not true. There is far more that unites American Jews and American Muslims today than divides them. We have to think back to, for instance, Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a prime example of when white supremacist groups came together and targeted both groups. Bernie Sanders' background as a Jewish man, and running on a campaign that understands and highlights the plight of Muslim-Americans as well, only shows that we are able to build coalitions now.”

Trends among women and younger voters in Michigan

“In the state of Michigan, we see a large gender gap. Men are actually much more likely to support Sanders. Women, however, they only narrowly support Bernie Sanders and a large portion of their support is going to Joe Biden," Lajevardi said.

"At the same time, we also see age differences in cohorts. We know that young voters typically do not turn out to vote, but there's been a lot of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders among young people and that also manifests in the data. So among those aged 18-29 as well as those from 30-45, Bernie Sanders held the lead, whereas those who were aged 45-65 and 65-plus, Joe Biden clearly wins those votes.”

Minority support for President Donald Trump

“President Trump has a lot more support among white voters than he does among minority voters. I don't think that comes as a surprise to many. However, President Trump has been doing very well on the economy, and this is something that individuals of color care a lot about. And so, especially for those who are concerned about jobs, I think that you'll find that those voters of color who do support him are really running on this promise of the economy," Lajevardi said. 

"There is also a subset of voters of color, especially those of immigrant backgrounds or maybe second or third generation backgrounds, who agree with the president on immigration. These are very small in number, but they do agree that perhaps, since they have come into this country the correct way or the legal way, that others should do the same. So, you do see some of that.”

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