As Americans head to the polls in primaries this year and prepare to do their civic duties this fall and in the fall of 2020, the 50 years of backlash against civil rights that helped fulfill that prediction might either be ratified or repudiated. Yet, in the middle of a nationwide conversation of diner visits and coal-miner profiles in service of understanding people who voted for President Trump and this regime, there’s been remarkably little analysis of the demographic that voted against him almost entirely. What drives and motivates black citizens to vote, and is simply being anti-Trump enough to get them out this fall?
A new poll due to be released by the independent political organization BlackPAC sheds light on the motivations of black voters. Conducted by former Obama and DNC pollster and strategist Cornell Belcher and his firm, Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies, the poll of 1,000 black voters in the battleground states of Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina, Illinois, and Florida aims to “examine the factors essential to a Democratic wave in the 2018 elections,” according to a memo from BlackPAC. But it accomplishes much more than that, providing valuable insights on the role of race and racism of Trump’s presidency, and the partisan destiny of the country even beyond 2018.
The poll finds black voters in dire self-reported straits. Over half of those surveyed believe the economy is getting worse, and over 40 percent believe they are falling behind economically. Only one in 10 black voters in the survey sample believe they are getting ahead economically, and that sentiment holds broadly across age and education groups. Over three-quarters of all black voters believe the country is generally heading in the wrong direction.
That directionality is reflected by what black voters see as a trend of increasing racism over the past few years. Eighty-nine percent of black voters believe racism in the country has gotten worse since 2016, the same proportion believes racism is prevalent in America, and over half believe that one of the key shifts in American politics has been a renewed attack on black Americans.
Of course, many of those perceptions are linked to Donald Trump, who in this sample faces an 84 percent disapproval rating, and whom a similar amount of black voters think is racist. But the overall perception of a country spiraling into a new nadir of racism is also reinforced by personal experiences with racism. Eighty-one percent of all black voters say they experience racism, with 40 percent saying they experience it often.
Interestingly, racial and economic indicators all have geographic skews, and rural black people are much more likely than their urban or suburban counterparts to experience racism and express distress about the economic outlook. But, according to Belcher, in the age of Trump that relative gap is narrowing, not widening. “It is an interesting time,” Belcher said. “Because I think if we had done this poll eight years ago, I think we would see more bifurcation between urban, rural, and suburban voters.”
“What we’re seeing is a greater mobilization across geographies in the black community,” Belcher continued. Essentially, what the poll data pick up is that across different levels of geography, across class and income, black people as a whole are both economically and socially destabilized, a state that will have major ramifications in how black people respond to politics.