Political News

Trump Falsely Claims His Approval Among Black Americans Has Doubled

Posted January 17, 2018 10:13 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON — Even as he is embroiled in an immigration policy debate that has focused on whether he used vulgar language to describe Haiti and African countries, President Donald Trump is claiming that he is delivering for black Americans — and that they are repaying him with their support.

In a Twitter post Tuesday morning, Trump said that “unemployment for Black Americans is the lowest ever recorded” and “Trump approval ratings with black Americans has doubled.” He appeared to credit the comments to a segment on “Fox & Friends,” the morning program on Fox News.

The tweet — half misleading and half downright false — demonstrates how inaccurate information can trickle to the president’s social media, which is then viewed by millions of people on Twitter and Facebook.

“Believe it or not, through all this negative coverage, they did a survey of 600,000 people about how black America views this president. His numbers have actually doubled,” Brian Kilmeade, a “Fox & Friends” host, said during the segment that was broadcast Tuesday morning.

Kilmeade was almost certainly referring to a distorted finding from Survey Monkey, an online polling company. Since Trump’s inauguration, the company has conducted 602,134 interviews with adults of every racial group — not just “black America,” as Kilmeade said.

Survey Monkey’s results, provided to The New York Times, show that Trump’s approval ratings among black Americans actually declined from 20 percent in February 2017, his first full month in office, to 15 percent in December. (This is consistent with polling from the Pew Research Center and Reuters.)

How did Kilmeade and, by extension, Trump arrive at his approval doubling among black Americans?

Survey Monkey broke out some of the results for The Atlantic, telling the magazine in a report that was published last week that 23 percent of black men and 11 percent of black women approved of Trump’s performance.

Breitbart News followed with its own report Sunday, comparing the Survey Monkey results with exit polls from the 2016 presidential campaign.

“That score averages out to 17 percent, or twice the 8 percent score he was given in the 2016 exit polls,” Breitbart reasoned in an article headlined, “Donald Trump’s Support Among Blacks Has Doubled Since 2016, Amid Racism Claims.”

It is inaccurate to simply take the average of two genders without taking into account the number of people who were actually interviewed for the poll. Survey Monkey interviewed roughly 19,000 black men and 31,000 black women.

It is also wrong to compare exit polls to Survey Monkey’s results. The company surveyed adults who both are, and are not, registered to vote. By contrast, exit polls necessarily survey people who have just voted.

The 6.8 percent unemployment rate for black Americans in December is indeed the lowest since 1972, according to the latest monthly data that is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the rate has been in decline for several years, decreasing steadily from 16.4 percent in August 2011 to 7.8 percent in January 2017.

The December figures also do not reflect a significantly different racial unemployment gap. The black unemployment rate has consistently been double that of the white unemployment rate and remained at that level in December. Presidents, especially in their first year, generally do not single-handedly influence the labor markets — as Trump suggests.