Heading into the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday, Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are well positioned to capitalize on the more diverse voting populations in those states, says a Virginia Tech expert.

Political scientist Brandy Faulkner senses a level of enthusiasm among African American voters, not apparent in primaries four years ago.

“The upcoming primaries have reinvigorated many whom did not participate in 2016. Discussions are robust, and topics center on which candidate has a tangible agenda for African American communities,” said Faulkner. “Some of the topics that are creating a lot of energy are reparations, Medicare for All, the rising costs of college education, police violence, and mass incarceration. I'm hopeful that these discussions will increase electoral participation.”

Faulkner says there is a range of choice in these primaries that we have not seen in other ones.

“Sanders certainly has significant momentum, and his position on social issues is attractive to young African Americans, mostly those under 40,” she said. “Biden has shown longevity among the community, and it's going to be difficult for other candidates to break through that relationship.”

She noted that Michael Bloomberg presents another option for those who are strongly centrist.

“But as more information emerges about his policies while mayor, I believe support will level out and then likely decline.”

Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar are not likely to be supported by African Americans, Faulkner said.

Brandy Faulkner is collegiate assistant professor of political science and the Gloria D. Smith Professor of Africana Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Her areas of specialization include constitutional and administrative law, race and public policy, and critical organization theory. She teaches courses in public administration, constitutional law, administrative law, research methods, and the politics of race, ethnicity, and gender. View her full bio here.

Faulkner’s expertise has been featured on NPR, Reuters, USA Today, and in the Atlanta Black Star.

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