Despite the record Black unemployment rate Donald Trump is trumpeting, African Americans are feeling a high level of anxiety and are enthusiastic to do something about it. Beyond complaining on social media, will their frustration in the current administration transform into a vote?
The NAACP certainly hopes so. While a recent poll conducted on the organization’s behalf confirms the frustration, it isn’t as clear that this frustration will convert to votes.
“The level of concern within the African-American community as a result of the current political landscape is something that is notable, and the poll simply validates that fact,” says NAACP President Derrick Johnson.
Some other key findings from NAACP Poll:
• Sixty-four percent of voters think it’s more important to vote this midterm than in 2014. That was true for 63 percent of Whites, 62% Blacks, 65% of Asians, 70% of Latinos and 60% of Native Americans.
• African-Americans strongly believe Trump policies not only have a negative impact on people of color, but more than half believe they intentionally do.
• Seventy-seven percent of Blacks think Trump’s statements and policies will set race relations back. Of White voters, 51% agree, whereas 7% of Latinos, 75% of Asians and 64% of Native Americans agree.
Still with Black voter participation typically down in mid-term (non-presidential) elections, will their frustration be enough?
Of the Black survey respondents, 81% were angry at Trump for something he said or had done, while 61% of Whites felt the same.
The survey also found 82% of Black voters felt disrespected by something Trump said or did, while 50% of White voters felt that way.
“That’s a strikingly remarkably high number that we think will have implications for turnout, no question,” said Henry Fernandez, co-founder of the African American Research Collaborative, which along with Latino Decisions conducted a poll on behalf of the NAACP. “I believe that’s exactly what we saw in Alabama.”
Black voters, particularly Black women, are credited with helping Doug Jones last December become the first Democrat in 25 years to win a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. He was favored by 98% of Black women voters.
Yes, says Henry Fernandez, co-founder of the African American Research Collaborative, which along with Latino Decisions conducted a poll on behalf of the NAACP
“Even though Trump is not on the ballot, electing people who will try to stop policies that African-American voters see as taking us backwards would be an important reason to vote.”
The survey conducted from July 5 to July 14 polled 2,045 people in 61 competitive House districts across the country, where high Black voter turnout could help sway those elections.
“Being able to have the Congress be a check on those efforts would be a reason to vote, but also to send a strong message about what they think is important,” he said. “They want to make clear that their community needs to be respected and there’s a reason for their anger.”
Still, negative politics appears to have worn the Black community out more than other groups. Another poll conducted in August and September by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic finds, Black political and civic participation down significantly in the Trump era.
Historically, members of the Black community have had a higher level of civic engagement, but in the past year, that number has dropped considerably to the point there is no significant difference in Black civic involvement compared to Whites or Hispanics.
“In the data, we see a sense of something like despair or cynicism or something over the last 12 months that has certainly dampened the kinds of engagement that they would have historically reported,” says Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI.
So the question remains, are Black voters turned on by frustration around Trump, or turned off totally to a political process where they feel it doesn’t really matter who wins, the results for Black folks will still be the same. In 2012 and 2016, with Obama on the ballot, Black folks turned out in large numbers, motivated not by anger, but by hope and a shared identity. It seemed to be an effective turnout motivator. Fear of bigotry didn’t work in the 2016 election. Maybe two years under Trump will move Black voters to a more heightened level of engagement.