Though Herman Cain, Don King and Condoleezza Rice may pull levers for GOP candidates in midterm elections next week, they aren’t typical Republican voters. This is because, according to Gallup, just 2 percent of Republicans are black.
But Cain et al aren’t just outliers when it comes to race and politics. According to a recent study, black Republicans put more trust in government than members of any other demographic.
“Albeit a very small group, Black Republicans are the most trusting of any group,” the study, which will be published in Social Science Research in January, said. “It is likely that in order to identify as Black Republican probably requires an unusual confidence in the political system and its fairness irrespective of who is in charge.”
Rima Wilkes of the University of British Columbia, who studies trust in government, looked at American election data from 1958 to 2012 — specifically, a trust-in-government index published by American National Election Studies based on surveys of about 1,500 people in each election cycle. In a telephone interview with The Washington Post, Wilkes said the levels of trust shown by black Republicans were striking.
“The reason I really trust this work is because it’s over time,” she said. “If this was error, you just wouldn’t see patterns. … The American data tells such a nice clear story.”
Wilkes found black Republicans trust government more than white Democrats or white Republicans — and that these three groups show “significantly higher levels of trust than Black Democrats,” according to the study. Indeed, “the difference in trust between Black Republicans and Black Democrats is far greater than the difference between white Republicans and white Democrats,” Wilkes wrote.
Though black Democrats showed “profound distrust” of government under Republican presidents, black Republicans didn’t much care who was in the White House — they trusted government anyway. In fact: “The trust of Black Republicans is actually higher during years in which the President is a Democrat,” Wilkes found.
Of course, not every black Republican commentator would agree with this assessment.
“Mr. Obama used to be able to make Americans feel good simply by giving one of his patented rousing speeches,” political consultant Raynard Jackson wrote in a blog post for the National Black Republican Association, “but by now, most Americans have tuned him out because they don’t believe anything he or his government has to say.”
Wilkes’s findings also go against one of the truisms of U.S. political history: Republicans — of any race — don’t trust government.
Wilkes said stereotypes of black Republicans might be complicated by the spotlight shone upon those few African Americans who come out swinging for the GOP.
“When we think of black Republicans, we think of prominent black Republicans,” she said. “But who are everyday black Republicans? We need more research to bear that out.”