Donald Trump is on track to double Gov. Mitt Romney’s support among African-American voters, according to a series of state polls.
In 2012, African-Americans comprised a record 13 percent of all voters. President Barack Obama was reelected with 93 percent of the African-American vote, leaving Gov. Mitt Romney with only 6 percent of the African-American vote. Obama is now campaigning against Trump, and hoping to keep his share of the African-American vote below the 11 percent that George W. Bush won in 2004 during the housing bubble.
On Friday, a poll of 506 Pennsylvania voters by Harper Polling showed Trump has the support of 18.46 percent of African-Americans. That’s 12.5 points more than Romney’s share of the national vote in 2012, and if it proves true during the ballot, that 18.46 percent African-American support translates into 2 point shift towards Trump. The poll also said another 4.6 percent were undecided.
The Harper poll is small, with an error margin of 4.4 percent, but an Oct. 30 poll of 1,249 likely voters in Pennsylvania showed Trump has 19 percent support among African Americans, while another 7 percent remain undecided. That poll has a error margin of 2.77 percent.
In next-door Michigan, two nights of a tracking poll conducted for Fox 2 of 1,150 likely voters showed Trump with 14 percent support and 19 percent support, leaving Clinton with 83 percent and 79 percent support. That’s equivalent to a two-point shift from Clinton to Trump in the state.
“We’re showing Donald Trump doing far better among African-Americans than any other Republican in modern memory, said John Yob, CEO of a Michigan-based polling firm, Strategic National. Trump “has done an excellent job in campaigning for the votes of African-Americans,” he said, partly by campaigning in Detroit, said Yob, whose automated tracking polls show Trump and Clinton running level in the state.
Trump is gaining in Michigan partly because many African-American voters — especially younger voters who backed Sen. Bernie Saunders — distrust Clinton, said Wayne Bradley, state director of African-American engagement for the Michigan Republican Party. “There is a tremendous trust deficit with Hillary Clinton” because tough anti-crime laws established when her husband was president in the 1990s, he said.
That distrust has helped cause a sharp drop in the number of absentee ballots mailed in from Detroit, even as other part of the state send in more ballots that before, Bradley said. Faced with a low turnout, the Clinton campaign is trying to frighten African-Americans to vote, but “that’s not a convincing enough argument,” he said.
“Detroit as of Wednesday had seen absentee ballots returns equaling just 46 percent of the total 2012 absentee vote in the city, and the city clerk’s office is forecasting a decline of 10,000 absentee ballots compared to 2012, a fall of 12.5 percent,” according to a review of absentee records by the Gongwer.com website, which intensively tracks Michigan politics. It is “possible that the falloff portends reduced [election day] voting at the precincts, in which case … Clinton could net something like 32,000 fewer votes out of the city than President Barack Obama did in 2012.”
But other polls offer better news to Clinton. A Detroit Free Press poll of 600 likely Michigan voters released Nov. 4 showed that “Among black voters, her margin also grew substantially, to 92% compared to 88% two weeks ago.”
Trump’s gain among African-American voters is happening in many states, alongside an overall reduction in African-American enthusiasm and support for Obama’s designated successor. That drop-off in support from Obama’s 93 percent level will likely reduce the turnout for Clinton.
That’s a problem for Democrats, because a 7.5 percent drop in nationwide African-American turnout would be equal to a one-point drop in a nationwide vote for Clinton.
Reports say the early-voting turnout by African-Americans has dropped by up to 10 percent in North Carolina and by somewhat less in Florida. President Barack Obama and other top Democrats have hopscotched through the states to push that turnout back up by election day.
But pollsters face problems when trying to gauge opinions in a high-stakes emotional competition.
For example, a large slice of African-Americans are picking “undecided” in some polls. The Washington Post is reporting that Clinton is leading Trump by 79 percentage points among African-Americans, but the fine print in the article says Clinton’s score is 82 percent and Trump’s score is 3 percent — leaving 15 percent who did not pick either candidate. So if Trump gets just one-in-five of the undecided African-American voters, he reaches Romney’s 2012 level.
Some concerned people lie to pollsters. For example, roughly 7 percent of college grads hide their support for Trump when they’re ask by pollsters over the phone, perhaps out of fear of penalties if their choice was made public. So when polls show a non-answer from respondents, for example, many undecided voters, the votes may be hiding a weak or strong preference for Trump.
These factor may be impacting polls of African-Americans, who are being hammered by claims from Clinton and Obama that Trump is supposedly a racist. “If you accept the support of Klan sympathizers — the Klan — and hesitate when asked about that support, then you’ll tolerate that support when you’re in office,” Obama told an African-American crowd in North Carolina on Nov. 3.
For example, Public Policy Polling — which mostly works for Democratic clients — used phone interviews in a poll that showed Trump with just 9 percent support in Michigan among 957 likely voters, of whom 12 percent were African-American. The poll said none of the roughly 110 African-Americans were undecided in a two-person race, even though 8 percent said they were unsure when they were asked if they had a favorable view of Trump.
In contrast, the Harper Polling survey in Pennsylvania got very different answers from African-Americans. Trump got 18.5 percent support in a four-person race, although many respondents waffled when they were asked to pick between just Clinton and Trump. When asked to pick either of the two main candidates, only 12.3 percent supported Trump, while 13.9 percent declared themselves to be undecided. So Trump actually picked up half of the undecideds when the respondents were allowed to chose from the four candidates.
A national poll by TIPP showed Clinton at only 75 percent support among all non-whites, including Hispanics, African-Americans and Latinos. That poll showed Trump getting support from 15 percent of non-whites, leaving 5 percent undecided and 5 percent supporting other candidates.
In North Carolina, 19 percent of African-Americans support Trump, according to an Oct. 30 survey of 1176 likely voters by Remington Research Group.
An Oct. 28 to Oct. 31 poll in North Carolina by SurveyUSA showed Trump with 14 percent support in a poll of 800 adults, including 659 likely voters. African-Americans comprised 21 percent of the voters in the poll. SurveyUSA is the top-ranked pollster in Nate Silver’s rankings.
But a late October poll of African-Americans in North Carolina by Siena University showed 89 percent support for Clinton and 1 percent for Trump — but it also showed 6 percent staying they did not know who they will vote for, and 11 percent support for the GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.
In Florida, a Siena University poll showed that Trump had the support of 13 percent of African-Americans. More ominously for Clinton, she had the support of only 83 percent, while 4 percent said they didn’t know who to vote for. If Trump gets one-quarter of the 4 percent, he reaches 14 percent of the African-American vote, leaving Clinton with roughly 86 percent.
In Virginia, a survey by Public Policy Polling taken in Nov. 3 and Nov. 4 showed Trump with 9 percent support and Clinton with 91 percent support. A Remington Research automated poll of 1,106 likely voters in Virginia showed Trump with 19 percent, and Clinton with just 78 percent support.
In Georgia, a Nov. 2 to Nov. 3 poll of 1,000 likely voters showed Trump with 12 percent of the African-American vote, leaving Clinton with 85 percent.
Amid the disagreement, rivalries and complexity, Bradley is confident that Trump will do well among African-Americans. His final tally as the GOP candidate “will be a higher number that it has been in the past… [because] he’s working, he’s coming to these cities to deliver the message.”
The African-American vote may even be enough to help push Trump over the so-called “blue wall” of Democratic northern states that stands in his path to the White House.