The latest YouGov/Economist poll (May 6-8), one of a few that comprehensively breaks down support by ethnicity, has some frightening news for the Democratic Party.
While President Trump’s approval holds steady among registered voters at 41 percent, his support among blacks in this poll is striking. If it holds for 2020, it could be devastating for Democrats. Among African-Americans, 16 percent approve of Trump, 10 percent are not sure, and 75 percent disapprove.
While that sounds highly negative, these are high positives for a Republican politician among black Americans. Approval of 16 percent is 8 points higher than the 8 percent of black voter support Trump received on election day 2016, and 9 points higher than the black vote Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received in 2012. The “Not Sure” at 10 percent is staggering, and the 75 percent “disapprove” rating is consistent with the low 70 percent aggregate found in any YouGov poll among this demographic.
The same poll, with their rounding, reported in January that Trump approval was at 10 percent among black Americans, 15 percent were not sure, and 74 percent disapproved, so the numbers are not only steady but improving in Trump’s favor.
This result may actually be underreporting Trump’s black support, as this records “all voters,” which consistently has lower figures for Trump in all categories, as opposed to registered voters. YouGov/Economist gives Trump a 40 percent “All voters” approval rating four points lower than their registered voters findings (RealClearPolitics favors the registered voters results across the polling companies it reports).
It’s Not Just One Poll, Either
Of course, one polling company’s report could be a fluke. Some firms use different methodology, and some don’t break down approval ratings by ethnicity, but the bigger picture is clear.
Marist’s March 19-21 approval for Trump among black Americans was 6 percent; 17 percent were unsure, and 77 percent disapproved. The Quinnipiac poll, which is consistently negative to Trump, on March 21 found black approval at 11 percent, “Don’t Know” at 4 percent, and disapproval at 84 percent. Taken in the aggregate, the three polls have Trump’s approval at 11 percent, at 12 percent for not sure or don’t know, and disapproval at 77 percent. Again, while the negatives are high, the positives are higher than is typical for Republicans, and if black Americans vote in accord with these approval ratings it would be easily enough to tip a tight election.
The threat to the Democratic Party is obvious based on these results and their upward trend for Trump. If Trump could win Pennsylvania despite a turnout for Hillary in Philadelphia that was only three points less than President Obama received in 2012 and “The best turnout without Obama on the ballot I’ve ever seen,” then any further bleeding of black support in that state could ensure Trump’s re-election, even if he lost Florida but kept his rust belt wins. If the current support level holds and turns into actual support (or anywhere near it), then Democrats are in profound trouble—possibly even for the midterms.
In Michigan and Wisconsin, Hillary underperformed Obama with blacks. Trump’s margin in Ohio was so high that any further slippage among blacks would lead to landslide territory.
What Accounts for This Apparent Trend?
What might be the reason for this apparent trend to Trump among black voters? Clearly the Van Jones election night “this is a whitelash” scaremongering rant has seen that apocalyptic vision evaporate. That Trump, a New York City social liberal, would somehow be a vehicle for the Klu Klux Klan and white supremacy was and is ludicrous, and the passage of time has confirmed this.
The Left giving up on this messaging is more facing a failed smear than any credit due for common decency. If blacks who voted for Trump see their support not eroded by such scaremongering, the 8 percent level might solidify into a new base, especially if black icons like Kanye West continue to courageously defy political stereotyping about African-Americans.
Given the 2016 results, that might be enough to ensure good numbers for Trump among African-Americans in his next bout at the polls, but there may be much worse news for Democrats. There are three key dates from the official black unemployment figures: in February 2010, the height of the financial crisis, black unemployment was 16.8 percent; in February 2016, it was 8.7 percent; and in February 2018 it was 6.9 percent. The last figure is the lowest since records were kept.
Certainly the lower trend began under the Obama administration, but the economy is far enough along in the Trump administration to ascribe the remarkable level of employment to Trump’s policies. This indisputable fact has led to this spin: “Yes, black unemployment is low, but blacks value more than just work opportunities.”
Due to economic considerations in 2016, and in the absence of overt racism from Trump’s administration, a chunk of black voters seems to have hesitatingly moved to Trump and his promise of jobs. Their “try it and see” or, as Trump put it, “What have you got to lose,” has been well rewarded so far.
If black support for Trump gets into double figures, the Democratic Party will have to look for different themes than Russia or Stormy Daniels and other such nonsense. Their failure to present an economic focus in 2016 contributed greatly to Hillary’s loss. To do so again, especially with black voters, could end in utter disaster.
More Details About This Trend
The complete selected monthly figures below from the YouGov/Economist poll over time confirm the aggregate support for Trump at around 14 percent, well above the 8 percent he garnered on election day. The combined “Favorable/Don’t Know” aggregate of 26 percent allows for further growth in his support among black voters.
Trump was at 17 percent favorability at the commencement of polling, which collapsed to 5 percent in the aftermath of the Charlottesville violence and Trump’s subsequent comments. As the memory has receded, nothing further of that sort happened, and job prospects are rising, polling shows blacks are once again moving to Trump. If you strip out the two “Charlottesville months,” the 16 percent approval looks more a bonfire than a beacon.