In South Carolina Poll, Younger Blacks Lean Toward Clinton, not Sanders

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By Perry Bacon Jr.

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of South Carolina Democrats shows Hillary Clinton leading among African-American voters under age 45. That finding suggests that the former secretary of state’s much-ballyhooed problems with younger voters may be limited to young, white voters and that she can find greater support among young people of color.

Clinton has a huge overall lead in South Carolina, 60 to 32 percent, according to the poll. Sanders has a slight advantage among voters under age 45: 49 percent to 43 percent, while Clinton leads 69 to 23 among older Democrats.

But the two candidates being nearly at parity among voters under age 45 would be a huge coup for Clinton. In Iowa and New Hampshire, young voters overwhelmingly favored Sanders. He won more than 80 percent of Democratic voters under age 30 in both states, and more than 55 percent of those between ages 30 and 44.

The voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, both young and old, were overwhelming white. But in South Carolina, more than half of the voters are expected to be black, and that demographic difference is helping Clinton.

The South Carolina survey showed that among blacks under age 45, Clinton had 52 percent support, Sanders 35 percent, with 13 percent undecided. (A survey released Thursday by Monmouth University poll showed a similar gap: Clinton led 60 percent to 26 percent among black voters under age 50 in South Carolina.)

In short, at least in South Carolina, Clinton’s advantage among younger black people is cutting into Sanders’ lead among younger voters overall.

Like with white voters, older black voters are more pro-Clinton than their younger counterparts. Clinton's lead among blacks under 50 is significant, but among blacks over 50, it is enormous.

In the NBC poll, Clinton led among blacks over age 45 by a margin of 78 percent to 12 percent. (In the Monmouth survey, it was 69 to 12).

Sanders was much closer among blacks under 45, with 35 percent of the vote.

Clinton’s advantage among younger blacks, if she is able to maintain it, will have deep implications beyond South Carolina. Starting on March 1, there will be a series of primaries in states throughout the South with huge black populations, such as Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. If Clinton remains the candidate of both younger and older black voters, she could run up big victory margins in these states.