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Analysis: Voters elected Biden for this moment of racial reckoning

Few presidents (certainly not the last one) would have made those comments.
But while Biden’s words may have stood out, they shouldn’t have been surprising. Biden might never have become president without having the appeal he did in 2020 on uniting the country on issues such as race relations.
Go back to last year. Biden’s 2020 campaign was on its last legs by the time of the South Carolina primary. He had lost the three previous contents and didn’t come close to winning any of them. Then he won the South Carolina primary by nearly 30 points.
As 100 days mark approaches, Biden must consider how he moves forward on racial justiceAs 100 days mark approaches, Biden must consider how he moves forward on racial justice
Biden won that primary, fueled by Black voters who supported him overwhelmingly and have been the most likely to say race relations were a top issue. When South Carolina primary voters were asked what issue mattered most to their vote, those who said race relations chose Biden by 40 points.
South Carolina was no aberration. Biden won the plurality of voters who said race relations was their top issue in every single primary in which an exit poll crosstab is available. In all of those states, he carried a larger share of the race relations vote than he did statewide. In every single one of these states, Biden won a larger share of the race relations vote than he did on any other issue.
All told, he emerged with an average 34-point margin among voters who selected race relations as their most important issue.
Biden’s appeal during the primary wasn’t just about race relations, though. It was also about uniting people — one of the central tenets of his campaign.
Again, remember South Carolina. Biden won those who said uniting the country was most important by an astounding 46-point margin. These large margins would continue as Biden rolled through the rest of the primary system.
He ended up carrying voters who said uniting the country was a candidate’s most important quality by an average 46 points. In those same states, Biden won overall by an average of just 13 points. He even won the unite the country vote in Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ home state.
Floyd was murdered in the late spring, and video of his death was replayed over and over again, as protests filled the streets.
Biden spoke with Floyd’s family following his death and called for the country to unite and for there to be justice. It marked quite the difference from former President Donald Trump, who stoked tensions.
In the fall, Biden won the election.
The exit polls reveal at least part of the reason why. Among voters who said uniting the country was most important, Biden won by 51 points. It was far and away the candidate quality on which Biden won the most by.
Many voters were sick of what they saw as Trump’s divisiveness. Indeed, a big reason why Biden won was independent voters who flipped from voting for Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020. Biden won independent voters who said uniting the country was a candidate’s most important quality by 53 points, according to the exit polls.
The exit poll did not ask about race relations in particular, but an October Kaiser Family Foundation poll did. Just like in the primaries, race relations was a strong issue for Biden.
Biden led Trump by 50 points among voters who said the issue of race relations was very important to their vote. The issue was of particular importance to Black respondents, who were over 20 points more likely to list it as a very important concern than respondents overall.
Now as president, Biden must lead to bring the country together and heal the wounds that many voters perceived after four years of Trump.
He needs to solve for the fact that less than a quarter of Americans are satisfied with the state of race relations (a near record low). Biden wants to be a president who unites the country instead of one, like his predecessor, who 70% of Americans thought left the country more divided than united after his time in office.
We’ll see if Biden’s words and actions, such as those following the Chauvin verdict, ultimately do that.
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