Optimism – What the Mainstream Media is Not Saying About Black Voters

A new Washington Post-Ipsos poll of Black voters is making headlines, and the mainstream media is running with the absolutely exhausted narrative that 8 in 10 Black Americans think Trump is racist. The pollsters made the polling data public, which means we’re able to examine how the opinions of African American voters differ by various criteria – like age, region, and education level. Here are several findings from the poll that might not put you directly to sleep.

65% of Black Americans Feel Optimistic About their Lives Most of the Time

With a Black unemployment rate reaching historic lows under President Trump, it shouldn’t be surprising that 65% of Black Americans feel optimistic about their lives all or most of the time. Twenty-five percent feel optimistic sometimes, and only 11% rarely feel optimistic, as shown below. Optimism African American conservatives and college grads are particularly optimistic about their own lives all or most of the time.

  • Seventy-one percent of Black conservatives feel optimistic all or most of the time versus 65% of moderates and 64% of liberals.
  • Seventy-eight percent of Black college grads feel optimistic all or most of the time, versus 71% of those with some college and 53% of those with a high school education.

This finding indicates that among African Americans in particular, higher education is still a means to a better quality of life.

Black College Grads Almost 30% Less Likely to say Trump is Racist

Another similarity between higher educated African Americans is a lower likelihood to believe the president is racist. Seventeen percent of college grads say President Trump is not racist, compared to 12% of those with some college or a high school education, as shown below. This represents a 29% difference in views on Trump by education level.

Views by education Level

This finding is nothing new. Last summer, Market Research Foundation conducted a comprehensive survey of Black Americans, and discovered Black voters with higher levels of education were more likely to support President Trump, not less. The data revealed 17% of Black Trump voters had a Postgraduate Degree, versus 12% of Black Clinton voters. What’s more, only 10% of Black Trump voters had no education beyond high school, and among Black Trump voters, only 5% had less than an 11th grade education. Overall, half of Black Trump voters had at least a Bachelor’s degree. These findings are validated by third parties as well. A 2019 The Hill-HarrisX survey of Black voters showed 25% of Black college grads would support President Trump over any Democratic challenger. This is compared to 17% of Black voters with less than a high school education, and 12% of those with either a high school diploma or some college.

Optimism about Children’s Future, Economic Outlook, Trump Approval Significantly Higher in Western States

When asked whether they approve or disapprove of President Trump’s handling of his job as president, region stands out as a dividing variable among African American voters.

Trump approval is highest among Black Americans from Western states and lowest among those from the Northeast. Westerners hold an approval rate 67% higher than that of North Easterners.

  • Fifteen percent of Western Blacks approve of Trump
  • Eight percent of Mid-Western Blacks approve of Trump
  • Seven percent of Southern Blacks approve of Trump
  • Five percent of North Eastern Blacks approve of Trump

Another dividing variable? Age. Generation Z and Millennial Black voters are significantly more likely to say Trump is doing a good job compared to older voters. Only 5% of Black voters over 65 think Trump is doing a good job, versus 9% of 35 to 49-year-olds and 8% of 18 to 34-year-olds.

Interestingly, African Americans from Western states aren’t just more likely to think Trump is doing a good job, they remember former President Obama less fondly as well. When asked if they think Obama’s actions were good, bad, or neither, Western Blacks said ‘bad’ at twice the rate of Midwestern and Southern Blacks.

  • Nine percent of Western Blacks disapprove of Obama
  • Five percent of North Eastern Blacks disapprove of Obama
  • Four percent of Mid-Western and Southern Blacks disapprove of Obama

African Americans from Western states are also the most optimistic about the future for Black children, the most likely to describe the economy as good, the most likely to describe non-economic issues as good, and the least likely to say President Trump has made racism a bigger problem in the U.S.

President Trump is clearly still not the first choice for Black voters, but in key segments he commands an approval rate double or triple the 8 to 10% he earned in 2016. Trump won in 2016 in large part due to economically distressed White voters, but the average African American Trump supporter is motivated less by distress and more by hope. His African American base is also younger not older, more likely to be a college grad not less, upwardly mobile, and optimistic. His strongest support stems from African Americans in Western states where race relations are less strained. Analysts should commit to additional polling and segmentation to understand how optimism motivates Black and White voters differently across party lines.