Kanye West isn’t the only one anymore.
A growing number of polls show that President Trump is gaining the support of black voters above what any Republican president has ever received. Both Emerson Polling and Rasmussen Reports have it at about 34%, a stunning number.
And a new Zogby Analytics survey found that African American support is at the “highest levels of the year,” driven by a strong economy, historically low black unemployment, and Trump’s agenda to support minority small businesses, historically black colleges and universities, and passage of criminal justice reform.
“Not surprisingly, all African Americans do not hate Trump!” pollster Jonathan Zogby said in sharing his data with us.
But Trump critics don’t buy it. Democratic and Barack Obama pollster Cornell Belcher is one. He rejected the reasoning that black support is growing and suggested that the polls are wrong.
“Those reasons would assume that it’s real, which it isn’t. To have a conversation about the reason is giving it credibility,” he said.
“I’m not going to bad mouth anyone’s polling here, but particularly with small subsamples, you get blips. When you look across the data and even look back to see what the trend is, it’s pretty apparent that numbers like that are outliers,” added Belcher, the founder of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies.
To answer those concerns, Zogby “oversampled” black voters in his latest survey and found that the support was 27%, but he also measured support in head-to-head matchups with 2020 Democratic candidates to put that support to an election test.
In all cases, while black support for Trump dropped when an alternative was offered, it was higher than the 8% he received in 2016 and maybe enough to push him across the finish line first in 2020.
Against Joe Biden, Trump receives 12% of the black vote. Against Sen. Bernie Sanders, it was 14%. And against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, it was 17%.
Those levels are the best for a GOP president or presidential candidate since 1968.
While he had a 5% margin of error, Zogby said the trend is clear. “If Trump is able to up his numbers over 10% or near 15%, and with a lower turnout among African Americans because they are not excited by the field of candidates or turned off by D.C., Trump could really benefit from this scenario in the 2020 general election,” he told us.
At the Trump-Pence campaign headquarters, top organizers are seeing similar numbers. But they are cautious with their confidence, believing that the polls are just starting to capture a pro-Trump black voter trend that they want to continue.
“The only story here is that the support is increasing,” said senior campaign official Katrina Pierson. “It’s on the rise. It’s not decreasing. It’s going in the right direction,” she said.
Pierson recalled that long before running for president, Trump was respected in the black community, a friend of celebrities, such as Don King, and politicians, including Jesse Jackson.
But when he ran for the presidency, the Democratic playbook demanded that he be smeared as a “racist,” and that took root, and it has taken time to overcome.
“He couldn’t understand it at first, and it’s very frustrating. But it came with the baggage of running as a Republican,” said Pierson, a longtime political aide to Trump.
“It went through a couple of years, during the campaign, where Trump’s a racist, he hates brown people, but yet he’s doing all of these things that the first black president never did for black people, and so you kind of have this new perspective on who Donald Trump is,” she said.
Along the way, he has picked up support from some notable minorities such as Kanye West, who joined Trump to help push Congress to OK criminal justice reform, long promised by Democrats but never achieved.
Still, Pierson doesn’t sugarcoat the effort to win over more blacks. “We’ve got our work cut out for us,” she said, adding with confidence, “I would guess that he’s going to get more than in the last election.”