On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has been critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, while Hillary Clinton has expressed solidarity. Polling shows support for Trump among black voters in the low single digits, raking in only 1 percent nationally and as low as 0 percent in Pennsylvania and Ohio, important swing states.
It would seem therefore that the movement is a top issue for the black electorate when determining whom they will back in November. But a Monmouth University poll found that half of black voters believe the movement has not made much impact on race relations and 21 percent believe it has made things worse. As such, and in keeping with the truism that black voters are neither politically monolithic nor single-issue voters—a fact often belied by its near-uniform voting behavior—there are segments of the black electorate whose voting choices will be uninfluenced by the Black Lives Matter movement and Trump’s and Clinton’s views of it.
In the course of analyzing data from a survey fielded as part of my doctoral research, I found that views of Black Lives Matter affect the voting choices of different parts of the black electorate in vastly different ways. The survey presented 366 black respondents with multiple hypothetical election vignettes to determine the impact of various factors on their voting preferences. They included the state of the economy, black unemployment rate, health-care costs, violent crime rates, positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, as well as on reducing racial inequality, and the candidates’ party, current office, and race.
When asked how best to reduce racial inequality and discrimination, respondents were presented with candidates supporting contrasting approaches—one who backs the Black Lives Matter movement and new civil-rights legislation, and another who prefers increased access to economic opportunity and a message focused on hard work and self-determination. The results showed that the Black Lives Matter movement has a low impact on the voting choices of black Americans, relative to other factors.
There were significant variations between groups within the electorate, however. Broken down by gender, black men were just as likely to vote for the presidential candidate who preferred economic opportunity and hard work as the best way to reduce racial inequality as the one who supported Black Lives Matter and new civil-rights laws. Black women were more likely to vote for the candidate who supported Black Lives Matter and new legislation. Age also played an integral role: The younger the voter, the more important it is to him or her that the candidate supports the movement. Black voters between ages 18 and 24 were much more likely to vote for such a candidate, as were those between 25 and 44. Black voters over 45 were equally as likely to vote for the candidate who emphasized increased economic opportunity as the one who supported Black Lives Matter.