So, telling us something we already knew, the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll pushed out a piece of news still useful for the confirmation: A majority of Donald Trump supporters don’t like black folks.
Of course, with context, it gets a bit deeper than that. Not only are diehard Trump groupies less likely to like us (again, that we already know), but they also believe that we’re less “intelligent,” downright “lazy,” “violent” and “criminal.” No word on what prompted Reuters/Ipsos to conduct the poll in the first place.
But what’s probably real news to most casual observers gleaning the racially convulsive poll is that it’s not just Trump supporters who feel that way. On average, Reuters/Ipsos discovered a quarter or more of Hillary Clinton supporters—yes, fellow Democrats—sharing the same views.
The breakdown of numbers is both revealing and nauseating to the trained side eye of racism-weary people of color used to it by now. Extracted from more than 7,800 responses nationwide between March 21 and April 21 (as Republicans were wrapping up their primary), pollsters not only closely compared the racial perceptions of Trump and Clinton supporters but also threw in Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) voters in the bunch for good measure.
Overall, among all those polled, 22.5 percent believe that blacks were less intelligent, along with about 26.8 percent, 31.1 percent, 32.8 percent and 33.2 percent who believe that black folks are lazier, less well-mannered, more violent and more unlawful (in comparison with their white peers), respectively.
If that’s not enough to piss you off and angrily shake your head at the staring white co-workers whispering around the watercooler, perhaps it‘s the sense that this latest survey shows you getting hit from all political sides. Least expected, considering that African-American voters are largely steadfast Democratic Party loyalists during most elections, is to hear that a sizable chunk of Clinton supporters don’t really dig us all that much. A good 21 percent of Clinton supporters think we’re of low IQ, along with 24 percent who think we’ve got bad a work ethic, and the 30 percent or more who (worse, yet) think we lack class, are more prone to beat them down and are engaged in all sorts of straight-to-jail behavior.
Still, the overall cultural picture presented in this latest poll presents few surprises. It’s no mystery that many whites harbor generally tasteless, jackass-level perceptions of black life despite much evidence to the contrary (and their guilt in systematically perpetuating anything that cements such views). A 2014 Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science study entitled “A Superhumanization Bias in Whites’ Perceptions of Blacks” found a majority of whites believing that blacks are mythically “superhuman” and, therefore, numb to pain. (And yet Hollywood won’t give us superhero roles. Unbelievable.)
An earlier Stanford study, deploying “real-life tests,” showed just a quarter of white participants supporting a ban of California’s infamous three-strikes law, even after they saw how much it disproportionately hammered black men. Yes, the crates run very deep on this count; no need to rebuild the endless pit of archive that houses them.
What might feel backstabbing to some, however, is that popular black political conversation typically associates that type of thinking with Republicans. With so much coalition-building, post-racial kumbaya narrative on the Democratic side, we’re not usually aware of what white Democrats think. Added is a generally held assumption that 21st-century white Democrats are relatively harmless on the question of race: Even if their privilege occasionally leaks, so long as they’re politically aligned when vote time comes up, it’s all good. (“Hey, we’re on the same team, right?”)
Not saying that Republicans are better … by any stretch. Obviously, just keep looking at the numbers in that Reuters/Ipsos poll as many reluctantly accept their orange-tinged nominee. Trump’s folks, predictably, made a side-step statement in response to it. "Mr. Trump is an egalitarian who believes in supporting and protecting all people equally," Trump Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller said. "This is a stark contrast to Hillary Clinton, whose policies have been a disaster for African-American and Hispanic citizens."
Interestingly enough—or maybe not—the Clinton campaign had no comment.
But what can you really say on the matter if you’re an embattled presidential candidate who’s going to need every bit of the electoral Skittles rainbow working in your favor Nov. 8? While Trump is banking on a white-voter turnout of 60 percent or more, Clinton needs a coalition of everyone—especially enthusiastic black voters who don’t think (as the Caribbean saying goes) they got a six after asking for a nine.
Problem is that race—more specifically, the eternal question of black people in America—appears as a radioactive glue holding skin-color values together. Earlier this year, YouGov posed (pdf) similarly uncomfortable questions in another poll: Forty-five percent overall said that black people were “takers” (compared with just 20 percent who called us “givers”). No surprise that 65 percent of Republicans (and 50 percent of whites overall) described black folks as takers—but, more curiously, a solid 32 percent of Democrats felt the same, along with 23 percent of “liberal whites” who viewed blacks as “net takers.” In that poll, African Americans scored worse than every other racial group.
Yet, ironically, the white Democratic candidate will need the outgoing black Democratic president to win over … white voters. At least according to another recent YouGov poll. Just under 30 percent of whites who like President Barack Obama “are enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton,” with many Bernie Sanders supporters more inclined to favor Obama than than they are Clinton.
What’s for certain is that we’re not just faced with one of the toughest and most bizarre elections in recent history. We’re also faced with, arguably, a presidential election much more racially charged than the last two. The outcome may hinge as much on how white people feel about black people as it does on voters simply supporting candidates based on qualifications. While polls on that question might not capture the full picture, the fact that pollsters are even asking it says a lot about what’s on the horizon—and how much we’ll have to watch our collective backs. All we have politically is one another.
Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and a contributing editor at The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune, a frequent contributor to The Hill, the weekly Washington insider for WDAS-FM in Philadelphia and host of The Ellison Report, a weekly public-affairs magazine broadcast and podcast on WEAA 88.9 FM Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter.