President Trump has an uphill battle if he wishes to increase his support among black voters. Last month, conservatives celebrated when three polls showed that the president’s approval rating among blacks had risen to about 35%.
But anyone paying attention to the opinions of black Americans knows that these studies are outliers; the majority of surveys show his approval rating with black voters is hovering between 10% to 13%.
Yesterday, The Washington Post released the results of a poll conducted with Ipsos painting a dire picture of the president’s chances to win more of the black vote. The study revealed that “more than 8 in 10 black Americans say they believe Trump is a racist and that he has made racism a bigger problem in the country. Nine in 10 disapprove of his job performance overall.”
The poll did not only look at black attitudes on the president — but it also analyzed their opinions on the state of blacks in America. “A 65 percent majority of African Americans say it is a ‘bad time’ to be a black person in America,” the authors wrote. A “wide majority” of black Americans believe that white people do not “understand the discrimination face by black Americans.”
Many conservative pundits have asserted that black voters are gravitating towards Trump because of the growing economy and the low unemployment rates. But, according to the poll, this is not the case. “A 77 percent majority of black Americans say Trump deserves ‘only some’ or ‘hardly any’ credit for the 5.5 percent unemployment rate among black adults compared with 20 percent who say Trump deserves significant credit.”
But despite their pessimism, the majority of black Americans stated that they “feel optimistic” about their own lives. This particular statistic is true across various groups of black Americans. The poll shows that it “peaks among those who are older and with higher incomes, roughly half of black Americans with incomes under $35,000 annually say they feel optimistic about their own lives.”
Dana Clark, a black father told The Washington Post that he tells his children that they can succeed in America, but they will have to work harder than others. “I tell them we’re going to set this plan up. Whatever you want to do you’re going to be able to do it,” he said. “But it ain’t going to be easy, especially if [you] want to make some money because you’re going to be in a world where they’re not going to expect you to be there. You can get what you want, but you’ve got to work harder, faster and stronger.”
So how should conservatives respond to this poll — as well as the others — showing that black voters are overwhelmingly rejecting Trump? In my estimation, there are two possible reactions. We can take the intellectually lazy route and immediately claim — without evidence — that the poll is wrong because we don’t like the results.
We can even pretend that blacks have these opinions because they are “brainwashed” or on a “Democratic Plantation,” or some other meaningless cliche. This would be the establishment approach, and predictably, there are already some pundits going this route.
The other option would be to take these polls seriously instead of only relying on the three polls that gave us favorable results. We could engage in some critical thinking and actually try to understand the real reasons why black Americans believe what they believe.
Conservative leaders and politicians can break through the misperceptions by actually conversing directly with blacks in their communities. They can learn more about their experiences instead of relying on the media’s narratives.
I speak with black Americans on a regular basis, and I can tell you that the results of this particular poll echo what many have told me. They typically give Trump at least some credit for the economy, but they also understand that the unemployment rate was already on its way down before Trump took office. Moreover, one does not have to be Thomas Sowell to know that no president has as much control over the economy as people think.
Over the past year, it has become fashionable for the conservative punditry class to tell their audiences that there is a mass exodus of blacks leaving the Democratic Party. The narrative persists despite clear indications that blacks are not becoming Trump supporters. Those making these claims rely primarily on anecdotal evidence and stories about blacks they have seen online or in their personal lives.
Some look at organizations like Blexit as evidence that blacks are rejecting the Democratic Party. But a closer look reveals that a very small number of blacks actually attend the group’s events. The crowds are made up mostly of whites and some Hispanics. This would be fine for a regular event — but for a movement that is ostensibly dedicated to reaching the black community, these numbers are rather dismal. There is a reason for this.
Blexit, whose leaders likely have positive intentions, are still parroting the GOP establishment’s script when it comes to black Americans. It’s an off-putting message that demonstrates a gargantuan lack of understanding of the black community. It has no real chance of changing minds.
But is this all doom and gloom? Will President Trump increase his support among black voters? I believe he will, but I wouldn’t expect him to reach anywhere near 35%, or even 20%. I do think that he will earn more than previous GOP presidential candidates. Why? Because unlike his predecessors, he’s actually trying. If “Black Voices For Trump,” the group the president formed for outreach, is actually reaching out directly to voters as they claim, it just might change minds.
If Trump does manage to win more black support, he will set a profound example for the Republican Party to follow at the local, state, and federal level. He will demonstrate that it is possible for conservative candidates to make inroads with minority voters. The question is, will the GOP be paying attention?
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
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