Will Trump-Biden race reshape minority voting? Some data suggest yes

New CNN poll offers latest glimpse of changing dynamics, showing Trump with strong gains from "people of color" in swing states.

Published: August 17, 2020 9:37pm

Updated: August 19, 2020 8:31am

When then-candidate Donald Trump carried his 2016 party banner, some Republicans worried he could become a Barry Goldwater 2.0 on the issue of race and Hispanics. Goldwater obliterated GOP relations with African-American voters, and some worried Trump might destroy relations with Latinos.

African-American support of the GOP was a solid 39 percent in 1956 and 32 percent in 1960. But after opposing the Civil Rights Act, Republican nominee Goldwater garnered a mere 6 percent, and black support fell to single digits or low teens ever since. 

Yet despite mainstream media predictions to the contrary, Trump actually beat predecessor John McCain's 2008 bid among black voters in 2008 and Mitt Romney's 2012 effort among Latino voters. McCain earned 4% of the black vote to Trump's 6%. Romney earned 27% of the Latino vote to Trump's 28% (Romney tied Trump's 6% of the black vote).

Trump still fell short of George W. Bush's 11% with black voters and 44% with Hispanic voters in 2004.

But CNN polling released Sunday shows Trump has narrowed Democratic rival Joe Biden's lead by 10 points since June, in part by what appears to be growing support for the GOP president among what CNN described as "people of color" in swing states.

The new poll shows the Biden-Harris ticket leading the Trump-Pence ticket 50% to 46%, compared to early June when the numbers were 55% to 41%.


Trump's rise among people of color has occurred even in the midst of nationwide, racially-charged protests, riots and chaos in inner cities. The question remains whether left-leaning activists fueling the protests and riots are creating a backlash among minority communities.

The CNN poll found that 26% of "people of color" approved of Trump in June, compared to 37% of people in battleground states in August. 

Harmeet Dhillon, national co-chair of Women For Trump, Lawyers For Trump and the Republican National Lawyers Association, said she wouldn't put too much stock into just one poll but wasn't surprised by its direction.

"I do think it's an encouraging the trend that we're seeing in that poll," Dhillon told Just the News in an interview Monday. "And so what people of color who are paying attention know from before the COVID time is that the president has done an amazing job of boosting job numbers for Americans across the board, particularly some of those minority communities, people of color as well as women, as well as other segments. He's opened up opportunity for small business owners, a lot of whom are women and people of color."

Dhillon said eight years of an African-American president in the White House did not produce Trump's criminal justice reform, pardons and commutations of people who have minor offenses in their backgrounds that disproportionately affect African-Americans 

"So I think if you're being honest that you would look at that and you would see, then you would also pair that with the fact that Joe Biden has had a fairly racist series of remarks over the years dating back to the 70s, calling integration basically how he did not want his children to grow up in a racial jungle--making racist remarks about Indian Americans and comparing them to only 7-11 owners and taxi drivers and those types," she said.

Dhillon also cited Biden's claim to radio host Charlamagne tha God that if black voters did not support him, then they weren't black.

"If you were from the African-American community, these are shocking, racist remarks," Dhillon said. "And I think a lot of African-Americans, you look at Kanye West and some other prominent leaders in that community. They are tired of being taken for granted by the Democrat Party. The Democratic Party has, has treated them as people on a plantation as their as if their property they're not property, they're up for grabs, and many of them are choosing to leave and vote with their feet and join our party, where they are welcome and where they are respected and where they are a big part of this administration."

Veteran pollster Scott Rasmussen, who conducts the Just the News Daily Poll, said it's best not to focus on a single poll but the broader sampling of polls or averages. 

"The CNN poll has been very volatile this year, which is always a reason for caution in interpretation," Rasmussen said. "Overall, the race appears to be getting a little tighter, but there are no double digit swings in the real world. As for the shift in support among persons of color, that is not what I have seen in my polling. Black voters in particular appear to be less supportive at the moment."

However, Rasmussen said he does see some indecision, particularly among Hispanic voters.

"If violent protests and riots escalate, it is quite possible to envision a situation where non-white voters begin to reconsider their options," Rasmussen said. "Bottom line is pretty straightforward. If the dominant theme of the unrest is about racial equality and Civil Rights, that's bad for Trump. However, the more it becomes an issue of Law and Order, the better it is for Trump. Also, the more that the protests seem to smear America, the worse it will be for Biden. Americans love their country and want to celebrate its founding ideals."

Antjuan Seawright, a senior advisor to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) who also advised the Clinton campaign in 2016, told Just The News that as it relates to the CNN data, he wasn't worried about one snapshot in time in a single survey.

"What all that tells me is what we will experience, over the next 80-some odd days, political ebb and flow from both sides," Seawright said. "So the polls will change, the race will tighten, naturally, and turn out will, at the end of the day, be the deciding factor. I'm not moved by any poll in August, pre-either convention. And I'm definitely not moved by a poll that indicates that people of color are somehow or another within a few weeks, or say over a several week timeframe, are somehow convinced that Donald Trump is the best candidate, based on his record, based on his political agenda, and based on his rhetoric."

In addition to the CNN data, Just the News also reported on UCLA data collected just prior to the protests about the death of African-American George Floyd show younger black  Americans have been holding more favorable views of Trump than their parents and grandparents.

The data collected from April 2-May 13 by the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project, an initiative that conducted weekly surveys of thousands of potential voters for nearly a year, found that 29% of percent of black voters ages 30-44 and 21% ages 18-29 have a "very favorable" or "somewhat favorable" view of President Trump. This compares to just 14% of black voters 45-64 and 9% of those 65 and older.

Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, said she was encouraged by data showing support for policing among minority communities.

"At a time when the ideological divide in the U.S. seems more unbridgeable than ever—we cannot even agree on whether mob looting is wrong or whether public streets may be colonized with impunity—it is heartening to see so many blacks opt for common sense regarding the absolute duty of government to protect life and property," Mac Donald said. "The chaos unleashed upon cities over the last two months from riots and unchecked street crime has taken its biggest toll on black liberty and black lives. Urban residents hear only excuses and justifications for that chaos from Democratic politicians. Many are now seeking an alternative to such excuse-making that will unapologetically stand up for order and allow inner-city residents to lead normal lives."

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