The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump takes credit for low black unemployment rates. Most black voters disagree.

President Barack Obama, right, and Donald Trump, then president-elect, meet in the Oval Office in 2016. In a new poll, blacks say Obama deserves more credit than Trump for the falling unemployment rate among African Americans. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Few voting blocs disapprove of President Trump more than black Americans — only 10 percent approve of his job performance, according to Gallup.

This appears to at best perplex Trump and at worst annoy a man who is running a reelection campaign largely based on economic successes he attributes to his presidency. Trump regularly points to positive economic data as a reason black voters should want him to remain in the Oval Office.

In September 2018, the president took to Twitter to ask why Democrats continue to win the black vote despite the nation’s low unemployment rate for African Americans, which he takes credit for. He tweeted:

“So if African-American unemployment is now at the lowest number in history, median income the highest, and you then add all of the other things I have done, how do Democrats, who have done NOTHING for African-Americans but TALK, win the Black Vote? And it will only get better!”

A new Washington Post-Ipsos poll shows one reason black Americans may not be as impressed with the president’s handling of the economy as he would like: They don’t believe, as much as Trump does, that he is responsible for current economic successes.

As The Post reported:

A 77 percent majority of black Americans say Trump deserves “only some” or “hardly any” credit for the 5.5 percent unemployment rate among black adults compared with 20 percent who say Trump deserves significant credit.
In follow-up interviews, many said former president Barack Obama deserves more credit for the improvement in the unemployment rate, which declined from a high of 16.8 percent in 2010 to 7.5 percent when he left office.

This was a telling data point. If one of a candidate’s touted accomplishments isn’t viewed as such by those he wants to reach, it’s understandable why that voting bloc might not support him.

It is unclear whether Trump understands why black voters — who largely view him as racist — want him defeated. Of course, it is also possible his frequent mentions of the low black unemployment rate are, like much of his “black voter outreach,” aimed more at assuaging white Americans who are uncomfortable with backing a president who so many people of color believe is racist. By repeatedly noting the unemployment rate, Trump could be giving his supporters a talking point to push back on claims that he views and treats black Americans differently than he does white Americans.

Who is correct about the effect of the Trump administration’s economic policies on black Americans? The president, who boasts of big gains, or the black voters and other Americans who believe he played a smaller role than he claims?

As The Post’s Heather Long wrote in August: “Presidents have only so much control over the economy, but how voters perceive economic conditions and their personal finances can play a key role in how they vote.”

The unemployment rate — including for black Americans — has been steadily decreasing since 2011. This continued after Trump took office, suggesting there isn’t much evidence he is single-handedly responsible for the decline. One might argue Trump deserves praise for overseeing the continued drop in unemployment, as he could have made harmful decisions that reversed the direction of the economy. But again, factors beyond the president’s actions also helped keep the economy moving in the right direction.

Regardless, the Post poll shows black Americans aren’t impressed enough with the president’s handling of the economy and are so displeased with his administration overall that they want him defeated in November. According to the poll, nearly 9 in 10 black voters said it is important to them personally that Trump not win a second term.