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The Diversity Of Black Political Views

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

We in the press often write and talk about African-Americans and their political perspectives through a single, simple frame: Blacks overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates. As a result, the only real question about them politically tends to be how enthusiastic they are about whichever Democrat is on the ballot (and therefore how likely they are to vote). And it’s true: Exit polls suggest that in the past 12 presidential elections (so 1972 and every one since), the Republican candidate won only about 10 percent of the black vote, on average; the Democrat averaged 87 percent.

But two polls released over the last week by The Associated Press and CBS News — conducted as part of news coverage around the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. — show that there is considerable diversity in black political opinion outside of the often-binary question of voting.

The Associated Press/NORC Center poll, conducted in February, asked a series of questions on racial issues and surveyed a larger proportion of black adults than most polls do. The poll found, unsurprisingly, that 92 percent of blacks disapprove of President Trump, compared with 7 percent who approve of him. A whopping 84 percent of blacks think Trump is a racist, compared with 10 percent who do not.

But black opinion was less monolithic on other questions:

  • Asked if race relations in the U.S. are better, worse or about the same as in February 2017, about 7 percent of black respondents said better (I would assume the Trump backers), 65 percent said worse, and 27 percent said about the same.
  • About half of African-Americans said blacks have a “large disadvantage” in “getting ahead in the United States.” Among the other half, 29 percent said being black is a small disadvantage, 11 percent said there is neither an advantage or a disadvantage, and 10 percent said blacks have an advantage.
  • Only 1 percent of black respondents in the poll described themselves as Republicans, compared with 59 percent who said they are Democrats. But 59 percent is much less than the overwhelming share of black Americans who vote for Democrats. Many blacks, like Americans overall, largely vote for one party but are not particularly aligned with it: 16 percent of blacks described themselves as independents, while 21 percent answered “none of these.”
  • Polling done by the Pew Research Center has suggested that among self-identified Democrats, blacks and Latinos are less likely to describe themselves as liberal than whites. Data from this AP/NORC poll comports with Pew’s findings: The majority of blacks say they are moderate (44 percent) or conservative (27 percent), while just 26 percent said that they are liberal.
  • Forty percent of blacks in this survey said they live in suburban areas, and 19 percent said they live in rural areas. Often “inner-city” and “urban” are used to describe black people or black communities, but that perception is no longer accurate. (Census data shows that the majority of blacks do not live in cities.)

The CBS News poll, conducted in late March, didn’t ask a long battery of racial questions. But the network did ask African-Americans how many of the goals of King and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s had been achieved. Twenty-seven percent said “most” or “all” of the movement’s goals had been achieved, 10 percent said “almost none,” while 61 percent said “only some.” That bloc answering “most” or “all” is a larger bloc than the GOP-supporting blacks who might be inclined to downplay racial problems.

I don’t think this data suggests that Trump should be expecting to do much better in 2020 than his 8 percent of the black vote in 2016, or that Democrats should be particularly worried about blacks not backing Democratic candidates in 2018 or 2020. Trump and his presidency are likely to maintain, if not harden, the alliance between black voters and Democratic candidates.

But on questions of policy and racial attitudes, I suspect the views of many blacks are somewhere in between the standard-bearers who get a lot of public attention in the Trump era: conservative blacks like Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who aggressively downplays the role of systemic racism in American society; and liberals like writer Ta-Nehesi Coates of The Atlantic, who describes America’s racial history and white supremacy as one of the defining forces of politics and policy in the U.S. today.

That said, the diversity of black opinion does have some political and electoral implications, even if it’s not likely to affect general election results that much. In the 2016 Democratic primaries, for example, Hillary Clinton won more than 70 percent of black voters overall, but Bernie Sanders ran even with her among blacks under 30.1 I suspect that these divides — among both black voters and black political elites — will affect questions about which candidates to nominate in key congressional and state races in 2018, if or how much Democrats should push for the impeachment of Trump if they win the House this year, and who the party should nominate for president in 2020.

Then, most likely, Democrats generally and black voters in particular will unify to try to vote out Trump.

Other polling nuggets

  • A new poll from Middle Tennessee State University of the race to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker shows former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, ahead of U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, 45 percent to 35 percent among registered voters.
  • A Gallup poll found that 93 percent of teachers believe they should have “a great deal” or “a lot” of input in school decisions but only 31 believe they have it. The poll last month surveyed nearly 500 K-12 teachers in public, private and other schools across the country.
  • A CBS News poll from March found that 68 percent of Americans believe that teachers in their community are paid too little.
  • Half of Americans believe that men getting away with sexual harassment or sexual assault is a major problem, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center, while 35 percent believe it’s a minor problem and 14 percent believe it’s not a problem at all. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats believe it is a major problem, but only one-third of Republicans agree.
  • A CNN poll found that 75 percent of Republicans (and Republican-leaning independents) think that the party should renominate Trump for president in 2020, while 20 percent said the party should nominate a different candidate. That’s almost identical to the Democratic opinion on renominating Obama when the question was asked in March 2010.
  • 80 percent of drivers have used a mobile device while driving, according to a survey conducted by Harris.
  • According to a YouGov/Huffington Post poll, 91 percent of people who said they voted in the 2016 presidential election still feel they made the right choice; only 3 percent say they regret their vote. That stance was equally true of Trump voters and Clinton voters.
  • 77 percent of adults in a recent Monmouth poll said they think that TV news and newspapers at least occasionally regularly report fake stories. That number included 31 percent who said the news outlets report fake news “regularly” and 46 percent think they occasionally do. When asked to define the term “fake news,” 65 percent said it also applies to how news outlets make editorial decisions about what they chose to report, not just stories where the facts are wrong.
  • If there is a trade war between the U.S. and China, 43 percent of Americans told YouGov that they think the U.S. would suffer more; 24 percent think China would.
  • A PPP poll in late March found that 70 percent of registered voters don’t believe that Facebook can be trusted to keep their information safe, and 56 percent said they would support government regulations requiring social media companies to be more transparent about how they handle user data.
  • In a recent YouGov/Economist poll this week, 38 percent of white Americans said they believed that race does not factor into a police officer’s decision to use deadly force. Only 4 percent of black respondents agreed.
  • Do you unplug when you go on vacation? According to a Rasmussen poll, 44 percent of adults check in with their office by phone or email at least most days when they are on vacation, while 19 percent check in some days. Thirty-six percent said they rarely or never do.
  • In a poll of New York City residents, Quinnipiac found that 53 percent of baseball fans supported the New York Yankees, while only 34 percent supported the New York Mets. Fifty-eight percent of those interviewed said they weren’t interested in baseball at all.
  • A new MRG poll of the Michigan governor’s race found Shri Thanedar getting 21 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. Thanedar, who garnered only 3 percent in an MRG poll in September, surpassed Gretchen Whitmer (18 percent) and Abdul Al-Sayed (10 percent). The primary is not until August, and about half of voters are still undecided.
  • Hungarians will be electing a new parliament Sunday. The right-wing coalition consisting of the Fidesz and KDNP parties, and led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is currently leading in most opinion polls. Some polls show about a third of voters still undecided.

Trump’s approval rating

Trump’s job approval rating is 40.2 percent; his disapproval rating is 53.8 percent. Last week, his approval rating was 40.2 percent, compared with a disapproval rating of 53.6 percent.

The generic ballot

The Democrats hold a 47.1 percent to 39.1 percent advantage on the generic congressional ballot this week. Last week, Democrats were up 46.4 percent to 39.7 percent.


  1. These two new polls did not break down blacks by religiosity or age, which I think would have shown even more distinctions in black political views.

Perry Bacon Jr. was a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

Dhrumil Mehta was a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight.