If nominated, can Donald Trump attract black voters?
Frank Luntz, a Republican messaging consultant, thinks so. He’s convinced that Trump would garner the highest percentage of black votes since Ronald Reagan in 1980 (14%). “They listen to him. They find him fascinating, and in all the [focus groups] I have done, I have found Obama voters, they could’ve voted for Obama twice, but if they’re African American they would consider Trump,” he told Politico.
Trump, of course, is ever-confident: “I think I’m going to win the African-American vote, and I think I’m going to win the Hispanic vote,” he told CNN’s Don Lemon in December.
Trump has actively courted African-American religious leaders in recent months. He’s made a pair of black female video bloggers, Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson—the “Stump for Trump Girls”—quasi-official parts of the campaign. And if Trump wins the Republican nomination, he’s certainly going to need support from unexpected quarters: His net favorability numbers—the difference between the percentage of people who think favorably about him, and those who think unfavorably—are dismal: -27 among independent voters and -70 among Democrats, the worst of any candidate in the race.
But the suggestion that Trump is well-suited to win black votes is laughable: Seven in 10 black voters have an unfavorable opinion of the real estate mogul—that puts him in last place, by a considerable margin, among all of the Republican candidates.
It has become something of a tradition for Republicans to vow that they will win over minority voters—whether it’s Hispanics, blacks, or Jews:
- Ronald Reagan directly addressed African-American voters on multiple occasions in the run-up to the 1980 presidential election.
- Arizona senator John McCain, who ran against Barack Obama in 2008, devoted a substantial amount of his minority outreach to Latino voters—perhaps knowing that appealing to black voters in the face of the first African-American presidential candidate was a losing battle.
- In 2012, Mitt Romney promised to replicate George W. Bush’s success with Latino voters (a record-breaking 40% in 2004). It failed spectacularly: only a paltry 27% voted for Romney.
The nomination of president Barack Obama in 2008 saw an unprecedented surge in black voting, with 64% of African-American 25 to 44-year-olds turning out on election day—the highest rate of any group that year. In 2012, black voters of all ages turned out at a rate of 66%, while only 64.1% of whites cast ballots, marking that year the first since 1968 when blacks turned out at a higher rate than whites.
The Black Lives Matter movement, aimed at reducing police shootings and reforming the criminal justice system, is already playing a major role in the Democratic primary, and will likely continue to influence the general election. And if Trump truly wants to win over black voters, he is not well-served with comments like this (from the most recent Republican debate in South Carolina):