AP journalists bring together interviews, data analysis and polling to put AP well ahead of other news organizations in telling the story of how Black voters delivered a Joe Biden victory.

The votes were still being tallied in several states, but there was little dispute that Black voters pushed Joe Biden into the presidential winner's column. The question was: How big of a factor were they?

Race and ethnicity writers Kat Stafford and Aaron Morrison began reporting on what Black voters said they wanted Biden to deliver once in office. Using the voices they collected as the foundation of the story, Detroit-based Stafford and New York-based Morrison teamed with data journalist Angeliki Kastanis and polling journalist Hannah Fingerhut, who infused the piece with data and voter survey findings that bolstered the narrative with hard numbers. 

Through AP VoteCast polling they found Black voters made up 11% of the national electorate, and 9 in 10 of them supported Biden. Polling suggested that tensions over Biden and his platform, particularly among progressive activists who criticized his role in the passage of federal criminal justice legislation in the 1990s, did not hurt him in the end.

The data also showed the impact Black voters had in key battleground states. For example, in Wayne County, Michigan, which includes Detroit, and in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Biden added to his vote totals and his margins compared to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. The increase in the Democratic vote in Milwaukee, about 28,000 votes, was more than the 20,000-vote lead Biden had in the state.

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From left, Dorothy Hawkins, Nia Winston and Zinnia Patcas, supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden, look on their phones as news breaks that Wisconsin is called for Biden during a rally calling for very vote to be counted near the Detroit Department of Elections building in Detroit, Nov. 4, 2020.

AP Photo / David Goldman

Black voters also had a huge impact in Georgia, which just completed a recount. At the time of publishing, Biden had added 588,600 voters in Georgia compared to Clinton’s tally in 2016. Meanwhile, Trump saw an increase of only 366,900.

Organizers and activists told Stafford and Morrison that they are now turning their efforts to holding Biden accountable for promises he made to improve health care and address economic investment, systemic racism and policing reforms.

The strategic planning, aggressive reporting and collaboration that went into the piece helped put the AP days ahead of other news organizations’ pieces on Black voters’ support of Biden. The AP story appeared on 125 news websites and had 32,000 pageviews on AP News.

For resourceful and insightful reporting and analysis on a major factor in the 2020 election, the team of Stafford, Morrison, Kastanis and Fingerhut wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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