President Trump has recently faced renewed allegations of racism.
Many critics have argued that Trump’s attacks on the intelligence of such prominent African Americans as LeBron James, Don Lemon, Maxine Waters, and Omarosa Manigault Newman were rooted in racism. Manigault Newman has also made headlines for claiming that Trump is a racist who uses the n-word.
The White House regularly responds to accusations of racism by noting that black unemployment is at historic lows under Trump’s presidency. Sarah Huckabee Sanders even cited some wildly inaccurate statistics on black employment from the White House podium this week to defend the president from charges of racial bias. She later acknowledged the error.
Trump has also attempted to inoculate himself from charges of racism by selectively citing polling numbers, which suggest he’s remarkably popular for a Republican president among African Americans. The president, for example, retweeted these polling numbers from Rasmussen on Wednesday:
Those results were then picked up by pro-Trump media outlets like Breitbart, which used the data to argue against “accusations of racism from the Democratic left.”
It might seem far-fetched that over a third of African Americans would now approve of a president with a very long history of racial insensitivity — especially because fewer than 10 percent of black voters supported him in 2016.
That’s because it is far-fetched. Trump’s black approval rating is nowhere near 36 percent.
Polling firms that have interviewed far more African Americans, and that are much more transparent than Rasmussen, all show that Trump’s black approval rating is much lower than 36 percent.
For example, Gallup has interviewed thousands of African American respondents in 2018. Its polling suggests that Trump’s black approval rating has consistently been around 10 to 15 percent through 2018.
The same is true in polling by Ipsos/Reuters:
Similarly, the polling firm Civiqs, which has interviewed more than 140,000 respondents in 2017 and 2018 suggests that Trump’s black approval rating has consistently been in the single-digits throughout his presidency:
Similarly, Trump’s average approval rating among African American respondents in seven YouGov/Economist surveys conducted in July and August was 13 percent. His average approval rating among African Americans in four Quinnipiac University surveys conducted over the past two months was just 9 percent.
These data remind us to be skeptical of outlier polls — especially when those results fly in the face of what we already know about African Americans’ weak support for Republican presidents in general and their strong disapproval of Donald Trump in particular.
Michael Tesler is associate professor of political science at the University of California at Irvine, author of “Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era,” and co-author of the forthcoming book, “Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America.”