Black women voted at a higher rate than any of these groups in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, with fully 74 percent of eligible African American female voters casting ballots in the most recent contest. If their fears about the outcome of this year’s election propel them to the polls in November, they could play a major role in choosing the next president.
Pundits have focused on the fervor of Trump supporters in this election cycle, with much speculation around whether African Americans will match the record turnout levels that helped to fuel Barack Obama's successful historic candidacies. African American activists and consultants predict that black women will again show up at the polls in large numbers because of their concerns about how the tense racial climate will affect them and their families.
Republicans have gathered in Cleveland this week to formally nominate Trump; Democrats are scheduled to meet next week in Philadelphia to do the same for Clinton.
Washington Post-ABC News polls averaged for June and July found 92 percent of black women supporting Clinton versus 5 percent for Trump. That’s roughly similar to how the group voted in 2012 exit polling, with 96 percent supporting Obama’s reelection and 3 percent backing Republican Mitt Romney.
Post-ABC polling across June and July also found that 95 percent of black women had an unfavorable view of Trump, while 81 percent had a favorable view of Clinton. Because the sample sizes of African American women are small, these results have a margin of error was plus or minus 10.5 percentage points. The poll also found younger African Americans were among the most likely to be fearful of the election outcome: 71 percent of those ages 18-49 felt "strongly" afraid of what would happen if their favored candidate loses, compared with 54 percent of those who are older.
The Gallup poll, which was released last week and interviewed more than 900 African American and Hispanic adults and over 1,300 whites, showed Hispanics as the least concerned about the outcome of the election. Only 38 percent of Hispanics said they are “strongly” afraid of what will happen if their candidate doesn’t win the election. By contrast, 64 percent of African Americans and 53 percent of white expressed strong fears.
“Despite Donald Trump's harsh anti-immigration rhetoric throughout this year's presidential campaign, Hispanics are less likely than either whites or blacks to "strongly agree" that they are afraid of what will happen if their candidate loses,” Gallup’s Jim Norman noted.
Trump has said that the Mexican government was sending "criminals, drug dealers, rapists" to the United States, has vowed to build a wall along the southern border and proposed deporting the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the country. For several weeks in May and June he repeatedly attacked the judge who is overseeing a civil case against Trump and now-defunct Trump University, saying that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not be impartial because of his Mexican heritage.
The poll attributes the lower fears about the election's outcome to Hispanic immigrants. “Sixty-nine percent of native-born Hispanics strongly agree that this year's election stakes are higher than usual, compared with 31 percent of Hispanic immigrants. Forty-five percent of Hispanics born in the U.S. strongly agree they are afraid of what will happen if their candidate for president does not win, compared with 30 percent of Hispanic immigrants.”
Although Trump has touted the support of several African Americans, including former reality television star Omarosa Manigault and boxing promoter Don King, many African Americans have not forgotten how the businessman took up the cause of the birther movement, demanding that Obama prove he was an American citizen and eligible to hold the office of president. Many considered it a racially-motivated attack on the first black president.
Michele Jawando, vice president for legal progress at the Center for American Progress, said researchers at the liberal think tank have found that racial discrimination was among the top issues for black women heading into this election.
“African American women disproportionately see discrimination still as an issue for us to deal with,” she said, “so yes, African Americans, based on the rhetoric are going to feel more concerned about who’s elected.”
The Gallup poll was conducted June 7-July 1 among a national sample of 3,270 adults on cellular and landline phones. The survey was conducted by re-contacting previous participants in Gallup polls. The margin of sampling error among white respondents is plus or minus four percentage points; the error margin is five points for the sample of non-Hispanic blacks and six points for the sample of Hispanics.
Post-ABC polls throughout this year have shown both presumptive nominees with high overall unfavorable ratings. A poll released Sunday showed that 54 percent of adults have a negative view of Clinton, with 64 percent for Trump.
Overall 42 percent of the public has a favorable view of Clinton, but African Americans and Hispanics have much more favorable views. Only 30 percent of whites view the former secretary of state positively, versus 76 percent of black voters and 68 percent of Hispanics.
Trump was viewed favorably by 31 percent of adults in the Post-ABC poll, including a 39 percent favorable rating among whites. Only 19 percent of Hispanics and 6 percent of black voters had a favorable view of the businessman and former reality television star.
Although some analysts have attributed that record-setting participation to the historical significance of President Obama’s historic elections as the first African American to win the White House, black women’s turnout rates were close to those of white men and women in 2004 as well.
Avis Jones-DeWeever, a former executive director of the National Council of Negro Women, said the findings of the Gallup poll reflect her own fears as the mother of two sons about the current climate of tension over police shootings of black men and boys.
Those tensions have been heightened by the rhetorical backlash against those who support the Black Lives Matter movement after the murders in the past two weeks of eight police officers. Trump has responded by criticizing Obama's leadership and billing himself as "the law and order candidate."
"There is nothing more fierce than a mother fighting to protect her child," said Jones-DeWeever, who is president of Incite Unlimited, a consulting firm, and an adviser to the Black Women's Roundtable. "Although a lot of us may not be super excited about our options at this point in the game, I honestly think what we're seeing in those [Gallup] numbers are black women saying we will do whatever is necessary to protect our children and that's probably the best weapon we have."
Rebekah Caruthers, who runs political campaigns through her firm, Caruthers Consulting, agreed that black women are concerned about "those aggressive and sometimes hateful words" coming from Trump's campaign. "Black women are fearful for the future of our families and Donald Trump almost seems like an existential threat to that. I think that's going to drive black women in droves to the polling place this year."
Still she said, Democrats cannot rely on angst over Trump alone to motivate black voters. "You still have get into the community and mobilize voters," she said.
Jessica Byrd, formerly with Emily's List, agreed.
"Fear is never enough," said Byrd, who runs her now runs her own firm, Three Point Strategies. "Every single Democratic campaign should be partnering with community groups, having meaningful dialogue about solutions, and investing in our base voters for the long-term. "