A new survey suggests most African-American voters were voting against President Donald Trump when they cast their midterm ballots.
He’s no Barack Obama, but President Donald Trump is having his own motivating effect on African-American voters, who overwhelmingly cast votes for Democrats in this month’s midterms – in large part because of the damage Trump has done to the GOP brand, according to pollsters who surveyed African-Americans immediately before the elections.
Nine out of 10 African-Americans surveyed on the eve of the election said they were voting or had already voted early for a Democrat in the congressional races, up from 77 percent who said so in July, according to the survey by the African American Research Collaborative. And while a number of GOP candidates distanced themselves from their party’s controversial leader or just tried to ignore him, polling showed Trump might as well have been on the ballot himself, the survey indicated.
Nearly 8 in 10 African-Americans said Trump made them “angry,” while 85 percent of black women and 81 percent of black men said Trump made them feel “disrespected,” according to the study. Similar majorities of African-American voters – 89 percent of women and 83 percent of men – said Trump’s statements and policies will cause “a major setback to racial progress.”
That Trump effect filtered down to damage even candidates in the Northeast and California, where the GOP contenders did not necessarily align with the president, and may have affected other ballot choices as well, Henry Fernandez, a principal at the collaborative, told reporters in a conference call. “African-American voters and other voters of color are associating Trumpism with all Republican candidates,” Watkins said. “Even with Trump not being in the ballot, Trumpism was effectively on the ballot. The entire party has now been branded,” he said.
Black women – who were integral in the narrow upset victory by Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama last December – also played an outsized role in electing Democrats in the midterms, said Ray Block, a political science professor at the University of Kentucky, assessing the poll. African-American women were more likely than black men to vote for the Democrat, by a 94 percent to 84 percent difference, according to the poll. In the Nevada Senate race specifically, for example, 93 percent of African-Americans voted for Democratic Sen.-elect Jacky Rosen. The same percentage voted for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in Georgia – not enough to make her the Peach State’s first female African-American governor but enough to show the potential power of the black vote, Block told reporters.
“It’s not simply women voting for women,” he said. “Anger and disrespect, I believe, are motivators for black turnout.”
African-Americans have long been a reliable Democratic vote. But turnout has been uneven, arguably making the difference in the 2008, 2012 and the 2016 elections. A record two-thirds of African-American voters showed up at the pollsin 2012 to re-elect the nation’s first black president, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2016, African-American turnout declined for the first time in a presidential election in 20 years, to 59.6. Political analysts and pollsters attributed the drop to Obama’s absence from the ballot – and the decline may well have made the difference for losing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whom critics charge had taken the African-American vote for granted.
Monday’s poll showed that Democrats have made some improvements and are still ahead of the GOP in terms of appealing to African-American voters. The study showed that 72 percent felt Democrats were doing a good job reaching out to African-Americans – up from 56 percent in the July poll, and demonstrably better than the 12 percent who feel that way now about the GOP. Fifteen percent said in July that Republicans were doing a good job reaching out to blacks.
Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, said the nation will not be a true democracy until both political parties engage and value the votes of African-Americans and other minority populations. But those communities have work to do as well, he said.
“It’s not incumbent on politicians to appeal to a community,” Johnson said in the conference call. “It’s incumbent on the communities to define the agenda of the party.”