Black Voters Propelled Blue Wave, Study Finds

African-Americans increasingly associate GOP with Trump, racist rhetoric

Members-elect, front row from left, Kim Schrier, D-Wash., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, Sharice Davids, D-Kan., Haley Stevens, D-Mich., and other members of the incoming freshman class, pose for a photo on the East Front of the Capitol on Nov. 14. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democratic wins in the 2018 midterms were driven largely by African American voters — particularly black women — who increasingly associate the GOP with President Trump’s perceived hostility toward people of color and immigrants, according to an analysis released Monday.

The report by the NAACP, the racial justice nonprofit Advancement Project, and the political action group African American Research Collaborative found that across competitive elections 90 percent of black voters supported Democratic House candidates, compared to 53 percent of voters overall. It also found 91 percent of black women, 86 percent of black men and 50 percent of white voters believe Trump and the GOP are using toxic rhetoric to divide the nation.

“This poll dispels the myth of black voter apathy,” said Judith Browne Dianis, Advancement Project executive director. “Clearly black voters are not only engaged, but they are central to the resistance against Trumpism.”

Get-out-the-vote campaigns organized by the NAACP, the Advancement Project and other groups drove record numbers of black voters to the polls, said Jamal Watkins, NAACP vice president of engagement. Nearly twice as many African-Americans voted Nov. 6 as in the 2014 midterm cycle, a turnout on par with the 2016 presidential election, Watkins said.

He credited those voters with driving a banner year for black congressional candidates and other groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in Congress.

Those gains will allow the Congressional Black Caucus to add nine members to its rolls, potentially becoming one of the most powerful factions in the House. Meanwhile the Congressional Hispanic and Asian and Pacific American Caucus will have record levels of membership. Women broke the symbolic barrier of more than 100 members in the House.

Lawmakers from those groups are in line to chair powerful committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction over issues including the 2020 census, immigration, health care, criminal justice reform, and voting rights, Watkins said.

“Those numbers really prove one thing,” he said. “If we do the work of reaching infrequent voters, infrequent black voters and infrequent voters of color, then it allows for us to take back our power.”

The survey’s findings included:

  • 72 percent of black voters believe the Democrats are doing a good job with regards to black constituents, but 21 percent feel Democrats are indifferent toward blacks.
  • Only 12 percent of black voters believe Republicans are doing a good job with regards to black constituents, and 55 percent feel the GOP is indifferent toward blacks.
  • 85 percent of black women and 81 percent of black men have felt disrespected by Donald Trump.
  • Only 8 percent of black voters believe Trump has a positive impact on blacks, and 29 percent believe he has a negative impact.
  • 89 percent of black women, 83 percent of black men, and 50 percent of white voters believe Trump’s statements and policies will cause a major setback for racial progress.
  • 82 percent of black women, 76 percent of black men, and 45 percent of white voters believe Trump and the Republicans are normalizing sexism and sexual harassment against women.

The findings were based on 9,400 interviews between Oct. 31 and Nov. 5, with registered voters who had voted early or were certain to vote in the Nov. 6 general election. The African American Research Collaborative conducted the interviews via landlines and cell phones in partnership with political opinion research firms Asian American Decisions and Latino Decisions.

Democrats looking to propel the party’s electoral gains into 2020 should continue to focus on African-American voter turnout, an effort that goes hand-in-hand with removing barriers to voting, the survey’s sponsors concluded. 

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