Despite current worries among Democrats about parts of their coalition’s less than enthusiastic support for President Biden’s re-election, history suggests those concerns may not be warranted.

A recent in-depth Pew survey shows that about one in five African American men say they plan on voting for Donald Trump. Among Democrats, this has led to fears that Black voters in key cities in key states like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee will cost Biden those critical states.

So how dangerous is this to Biden’s prospects? First, much of the polling that purports to show Black voters moving toward Trump is based on small sample sizes. The samples from subsegments in those polls are often so small that they have a very large margin of error. Second, they aren’t as recent as survey data, from Pew, that analyze the Black vote in greater depth.

During this month’s discussion of young Black voters hosted by Brookings as part of their Race, Prosperity and Inclusion Initiative, Howard University political science professor Marcus Board, Jr. said that the normal Republican Black vote in presidential contests ranges from eight percent to 15%. Surveys back up his numbers.

The Pew survey cited above, for example, indicates that Black voters prefer President Biden over Donald Trump by greater than a four-to-one margin (78% to 18%). These numbers reflect a level of loyalty to the Democratic Party that has existed since the late 1960s and continues to this day.

In 2016, Pew’s Validated Voter survey found that 14% of Black men voted for Trump while virtually all Black women (98%) voted for Hillary Clinton. Overall, Clinton led Trump among Black voters by 91% to six percent. In 2020, according to Pew’s Validated Voter survey, 12% of Black men voted for Trump. Overall, Biden led Trump in that election among Black voters 92% to eight percent, because Black women voted for Biden over Trump by 95% to five percent.

Currently, according to the recent Pew survey of African Americans, (with a sample size of 8,709 and a margin of error of 1.5 percentage points) 83% of Black registered voters identify with the Democratic Party, or lean Democratic, while 12% are Republican or lean Republican. While it is true that this is a smaller share than the 88% who identified with the Democratic Party in 2020, it is well within the level of party identification the majority of Black voters have felt toward the Democratic Party over the last 30 years. There is no evidence that these patterns have changed significantly since the 2020 election and, absent some major historical event not currently on the horizon, they aren’t about to in 2024.

There is, however, one unique aspect to Pew’s recent findings on Black voters that helps explain the current media fascination with Biden’s support, or possible lack thereof, among Black voters. In a reversal of the age profile in the rest of the electorate, younger Black voters have tended to be more Republican than older Black voters over the last 25 years. In Pew’s latest survey, 17% of Black voters under 50 either strongly align with or lean toward the Republican Party, while only seven percent of Black voters over 50 identified with the GOP. As with Black party identification overall, this pattern has not changed over the past three decades.

This phenomenon has led to two common media stories about Biden’s supposed problems with young Black voters. One talks about how Republicans are making inroads among young Black voters. The recent Pew research does present evidence that this tendency for younger Black voters to vote in larger numbers for Republican candidates than older Black voters is continuing. That survey indicates that while 29% of 18- to 49-year-old Black registered voters would currently vote for Donald Trump, only eight percent of those 50 and older would do so. However, the New York Times’ Nate Cohn noted the day after Trump’s guilty verdict that in their polling “27 percent of Black voters who backed Mr. Trump flipped to Mr. Biden, compared with just 5 percent of white respondents,” suggesting this portion of Trump’s support may not be as solid as the rest of his support. A more recent New York Times analysis indicates that what Nate Cohn first predicted in fact actually occurred.

The other subject of media attention suggests that male Black voters are not as enthusiastic as Black women are about voting for Biden. The Pew research, with a much larger sample size and very small margin of error, however, points to no significant difference between Black women and men in preferring President Biden (78% for women and 75% for men).

In any case, while both stories may be true enough to create anecdotal reports quoting Blacks within either age group or gender, both lack the context of historical survey data that shows somewhere between 83% and 86% of all Black voters have identified with the Democratic party since 1994.

Party identification is a powerful predictor of voting behavior among all segments of the American electorate. For example, exit polls showed that about 95% of those who identified with one or the other of the parties voted for that party in the 2020 presidential election. According to American National Election Studies (ANES) data, since the mid-1960s, with only slight variation, about eight in 10 Black voters identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party and around one in 10 have identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party. It should be of no surprise to anyone, then, that 92% of Blacks voted for Biden over Trump in 2020.

Beyond history, there is another reason why this year’s election is unlikely to result in a diminution of President Biden’s support among Black voters—very few have anything good to say about Trump and most express confidence in President Biden’s past and future performance. In Pew’s May 2024 survey, Biden had a 55% approval among Black voters, 46% of whom said Biden is a great or good president. The same survey showed 72% of Black voters thought Trump was a poor or terrible president. Pew’s latest survey also found that Black voters are extremely or very confident that President Biden, unlike Trump, “respects the country’s democratic values (by a 56% to eight percent margin), acts ethically (50% to seven percent) and has the mental (34% to 13%) and physical fitness (26% to 12%) needed to do the job.”

Of course, retaining such loyalties will require communicating in new ways with new messages that reflect the priorities of each part of the Democratic coalition, especially its most loyal and sophisticated component. As Brookings fellow and University of Maryland professor Rashawn Ray points out, Blacks vote at rates that match and, in some cases, exceed the level of voting by other parts of the coalition. If they want to win this year, Democrats should spend less time worrying about the Black vote and more time working hard to ensure the election results reflect the same historical patterns of party loyalty they have enjoyed from Black voters in the past.