Let me say up front that I have no doubt Biden is going to win a strong majority of the black vote, as every Democrat has in my lifetime. Still, there’s some evidence Democrats are a bit nervous about what is happening with black male voters in the final weeks of this election. Yesterday the Washington Post pointed out something President Trump said to Joe Biden in this week’s final debate:
“Tens of thousands of Black men, mostly, in jail. And you know what? They remember it, because if you look at what’s happening with the voting right now, they remember that you treated them very, very badly. Just take a look at what’s happening out there,” Trump said.
Black voters overwhelmingly back the Democratic Party in presidential elections, more than any other group — especially Black women. But while the large majority of Black men are also voting for the vice president to America’s first Black president, some data shows Trump is on track to perform as well — if not better — with Black male voters this year, compared with 2016. Nearly 1 in 5 Black men approve of the job Trump is doing, according to a recent Gallup survey. And about 10 percent of Black men are leaning toward Trump, according to the latest Pew Research data…
A big surprise of 2016 exit polls for many Americans was the revelation that Trump won the highest percentage of Black male voters (13 percent) of any GOP candidate in recent history. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by far won the majority of Black male voters (82 percent). But Trump’s stronger-than-expected performance with the demographic revealed that the president was in better standing with Black men than many expected.
There’s real concern Trump could do as well or better this time out. Yesterday the LA Times published a story about the worry among Democrats that Biden could blow his lead in critical states and concern about a dip in support from black voters was part of that.
There is a legitimate case for jittery nerves. The national polling averages that show Biden with a double-digit lead obscure a narrower gap in the swing states essential to win a 270-vote Electoral College majority. A slight shift in voters’ mood in those places could mean the difference between a Biden blowout and Trump eking out another narrow victory even as he loses the popular vote — as he did to Clinton four years ago…
So intense is the hand-wringing that even the smallest sign of a glitch on the campaign trail is confronted with an urgency unheard of in the last presidential election. A recent dip in Biden’s support among young Black and Latino voters, as reflected in a UCLA poll, moved Democratic operatives to reassess their work in places including Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia…
Even as the Biden campaign and allied groups are hyper-focused on mobilizing swing state Black voters, recent polling data from UCLA hasn’t calmed their nerves. It showed Trump making slight inroads with Black voters younger than 45, with 21% signaling support for the president, double his share in 2016. “At this point, everything worries me,” Finney said.
CBS also did a story this week acknowledging that both candidates seemed to be competing for black voters. Finally, for the sake of completeness, I’ll mention this Rasmussen tweet about results from their daily poll:
Morning Reader Data Points:
National Daily Black Likely Voter Job Approval For @POTUS – October 19-23, 2020
Mon 10/19 – 25%
Tue 10/20 – 24%
Wed 10/21 – 31%
Thu 10/22 – 37%
Fri 10/23 – 46%
— Rasmussen Reports (@Rasmussen_Poll) October 23, 2020
I don’t think those numbers are realistic, nor do I think that kind of change is likely to happen over a week. That said, I do think it’s true that Trump’s ceiling among black male voters could actually be higher than people assume. There was a Hill-Harris X poll published a year ago that showed 15% of black voters surveyed saying they preferred Trump over any Democratic nominee, which was a strong result. When the numbers were broken out by sex, Trump had just 7% preference with black women but a surprising 32% with black men.
Again, that doesn’t mean that’s where Trump is now. The Pew and Gallup surveys mentioned above suggest otherwise. My point is only that the best Trump could do with black male voters may be higher than people assume. And as the LA Times pointed out, some Democrats seem genuinely worried about it.
Finally, I think we’ve seen the nerves about that expressed in other ways recently. When rapper Ice Cube announced that he’d been working with the Trump administration on a plan to pour resources into black communities, a lot of his fans freaked out. Ice Cube’s response was not that he was ready to vote for Trump but that the Trump administration had been willing to listen when he called while the Biden camp basically said let’s talk later.
This week there was another blow up involving rapper 50 Cent, who posted a clip from Fox News and suggested he didn’t want to pay the kind of taxes Joe Biden was going to create. His ex-girlfriend Chelsea Handler jokingly offered to sleep with him to change his mind.
To be clear, I’m not saying that black voters are being guided in their decision making by rappers. I don’t think most people care what celebrities say about how to vote. But I do think the reaction to those two incidents shows some jitters about the idea that Trump might catch on with a segment of the black population.
I’m not ready to make any big predictions about whether Trump will do better or worse with black voters this time than he did last time but it’s an interesting thing to watch as we get close to election day.