WASHINGTON – Donald Trump may not be up for re-election this fall, but a new survey shows anger at the president and a feeling of being disrespected by him is expected to drive black voters to the polls in dozens of competitive U.S. House races in November.
"That will be a heavy determinant of turnout for African-American voters," said Henry Fernandez, co-founder of the African American Research Collaborative, which along with Latino Decisions conducted the new poll. “Even though Trump is not on the ballot, electing people who will try to stop policies that African-American voters see as taking us backwards would be an important reason to vote."
The survey, released late Tuesday, was conducted for the national NAACP, one of the nation's largest civil rights organizations. USA TODAY was given a copy of the survey in advance.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson said the group aims to increase black voter participation in the midterms and will use the findings to help craft its message and boost its get-out-the-vote campaign, particularly in competitive districts.
“This poll reveals the high level of anxiety … and the enthusiasm to do something about it," Johnson said. “The level of concern within the African-American community as a result of the current political landscape is something that is notable, and the poll simply validates that fact."
The survey conducted from July 5 to July 14 polled 2,045 people in 61 competitive House districts across the country. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points for the overall survey. The sample included a minimum of 400 African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders and Native Americans with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. Native Americans were drawn from a national sample.
The competitive races are in districts that are mostly suburban and/or rural and lean conservative.
Fernandez said most African-American respondents see Trump’s polices as a “threat," and congressional candidates supporting himmight bear the brunt of that anger.
“Being able to have the Congress be a check on those efforts would be a reason to vote, but also to send a strong message about what they think is important," he said. “They want to make clear that their community needs to be respected and there’s a reason for their anger.”
The survey found emotions running high among voters across the board in those districts.
Of the black respondents, 81 percent were angry at Trump for something he said or had done, while 61 percent of whites felt the same.
The survey also found 82 percent of black voters felt disrespected by something Trump said or did, while 50 percent of white voters felt that way.
“That’s a strikingly remarkably high number that we think will have implications for turnout, no question," Fernandez said. “I believe that’s exactly what we saw in Alabama, and that’s what we saw in Virginia.”
Black voters, particularly black women, are credited with helping Doug Jones last December become the first Democrat in 25 years to win a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. He was favored by 98 percent of black women voters.
Johnson said, as expected, the poll showed African-Americans were worried about issues such as health care, but it also showed major concern about immigration and the separation of children from parents who crossed the border illegally.
"We’re also concerned with how this government is treating other communities," he said.
Some other key findings:
• Sixty-four percent of voters think it’s more important to vote this midterm than in 2014. That was true for 63 percent of whites, 62 percent of blacks, 65 percent of Asians, 70 percent of Latinos and 60 percent of Native Americans.
• African-Americans strongly believe Trump policies not only have a negative impact on people of color, but more than half believe they intentionally do.
• Seventy-seven percent of blacks think Trump’s statements and policies will set race relations back. Of white voters, 51 percent agree, whereas 75 percent of Latinos, 75 percent of Asians and 64 percent of Native Americans agree.
Ray Block, a political scientist and associate professor of African-American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky, said the data suggest there’s a definite backlash against some of the rhetoric used by Trump and some of his surrogates.
That backlash, he said, can be used to mobilize voters.
“The sword that was used in 2016 to bring out what I’m going to call the lowest common denominator in people may see a backlash in the midterms … Most people conceive midterms as a referendum on the president’s polices,'' he said.
Block said racial animus was used to mobilize voters in 2016 and could be used again in 2018, given some of the ads that have aired.
He noted that it was used by the Trump campaign to mobilize white voters.
The 2016 messages didn’t “even dog whistle,'' said Block, a contributor to the poll. "It was like blatant racial appeals involving displays of prejudice and bias and aggression towards brown folk. And it worked. So some candidates realized that this approach could be useful and had the stomach to do it and then actually did it."
Historically, there’s a significant falloff among black voters and younger voters during midterm elections.
In July, with four months until Election Day, most voters in those competitive districts still had not been contacted by a campaign or group, the survey found.