Why do most conservative voters of color still back Trump for president?

Political experts weigh in on what a recent poll signals about the Black vote in the 2024 presidential election.

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A recent poll of conservative voters found that Black and brown voters who lean Republican are strongly behind former President Donald Trump as the preferred candidate for the 2024 presidential election.

The findings from the survey conducted by CNN/SSRS are in stark contrast to opinions from critics who say Trump and his former policies are racist – including a majority of Black voters who were surveyed ahead of the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump Supporters gather in Manchester, New Hampshire during the MAGA Rally. (Photo by Preston Ehrler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The poll, which asked respondents to indicate who they’re more likely to support as the Republican nominee for president, found that 56 percent of voters of color preferred Trump over current and potential candidates like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (27%), former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (5%) and former Vice President Mike Pence (4%).

“It is really disappointing and disheartening that, even within our community, the overtly racist comments that he’s made, things that he’s done, are not enough to walk away,” Democratic strategist Alencia Johnson told theGrio. 

Johnson said Trump “bolsters up the worst of stereotypes” within the Black community, in particular. 

“I think of what we just dealt with in Georgia with Herschel Walker,” she recalled, referring to Trump installing the former NFL player as the Republican Party candidate for U.S. Senate in the 2022 midterm election.

While the former adviser to the Obama and Biden presidential campaigns said, “we are not a monolith” and supports the fact that the Black community consists of “different political ideology,” Walker, she insisted, was not a good representative of that diversity. 

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on November 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Johnson and others are not surprised by the poll for various reasons. A core base of the Republican Party are still loyal viewers of Fox News, which she said “will not tell the truth because they are also scared of Donald Trump.”

Recent court filings in a defamation lawsuit brought against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems suggested that despite knowing there was no fraud in the 2020 presidential election, network hosts aligned with Trump continued to promote conspiracy theories pushed by the former president and his legal team.

Political strategist Shermichael Singleton, who has worked on three Republican presidential campaigns, said that while Black people and people of color, in general, “dislike Trump for various reasons,” he’s not surprised by the poll of conservative voters who still back him.

“I think most people will say Trump is probably less of a threat or less concerning than Ron DeSantis,” Singleton told theGrio. 

Gov. DeSantis has made national headlines for controversial race-related policies like banning Black history courses that his administration considers “woke.” 

Even as Trump faces a potential indictment for hush money paid in 2020 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, Singleton noted “an increase of fundraising numbers” for the former president.

Christina M. Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University, said the recent poll reflects that many conservative voters of color “want to be in on the team that they view is the winning team.”

She said it also illuminated a larger reality about Black voters: “A lot of Black folks are tired of being beholden to the Democratic Party.”

A man hold a “Blacks for Trump” sign as he waits to see US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump address supporters at Freedom Hill Amphitheater on November 6, 2016 in in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Donald Trump barnstorms five states Sunday while Hillary Clinton implores her most fervent supporters to get to the polls, in a frenetic final 48-hour dash to the US presidential election. / AFP / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat who served as an impeachment manager in the second House impeachment trial for former President Trump, said that as it relates to Black voters supporting Trump, her party needs to do a better job of showing voters “what we’re doing for them.”

“We’re the ones that brought down child poverty – which affects mostly people of color – we’re the ones that are supporting new jobs, new clean energy in areas that most affect African American [and] people of color areas,” Plaskett told theGrio.

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) said “miseducation” could also explain what he sees as “counterintuitive” support for Trump among Black and brown voters. He said conservative voters of color might also be single-issue voters.

He told theGrio, “If a conservative voter’s one issue is to support police departments at all costs, no matter what, and that is the number one way we address the issue of public safety, then they’re gonna vote for someone like like Trump.”

In this photo illustration a pencil lies on a U.S. presidential election mail-in ballot received by a U.S. citizen living abroad that shows current U.S. Republican President Donald Trump and his main contender, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, among the choices on September 21, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

But Singleton, a former Republican, said he sees a broader potential issue for Democrats in the gradual support for Trump and the Republican Party among Black men. Though Black male support for Trump in 2020 diminished slightly from 14 percent to 12 percent compared to the 2016 election, he thinks Black men are a voting bloc that the Republican Party can strategically engage in future elections.

“They should be concerned about Black men voters in general, and whether or not they’ll see a drop off of them going to a Trump or completely becoming disengaged with the process altogether and staying home,” Singleton explained.

“That would not be to the benefit of President Biden; it would be to his detriment because, behind Black women, the second largest group to vote for Biden were Black men. He can’t afford to lose any of them.”

Singleton argued that beyond “symbolic” wins by the Biden-Harris administration – like the Emmett Till Antilynching Act and appointing Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court – things have not improved materially for Black Americans. 

“When you point to the tangibles and ask, is your life actually better? Are you making more money? Can you afford to even buy your first home or your second home as an investment property?” he rhetorically queried. “The answer to those questions is, frankly, no.”

However, Congresswoman Plaskett said Black and brown voters who plan to back Trump in the 2024 presidential election are ultimately “voting against their own interests.” 

“I think it’s for the Democrats to message and let people really know what the Republicans are about,” she said. “Not let the dog whistles or the things that make it sound like they’re rosy when they haven’t done anything to support their real interests.”

Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is the Managing Editor of Politics and White House Correspondent at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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