As we lay the framework for November’s elections, we’re seeing the emergence of a new face of the Democratic Party—more progressive, more left wing.
The Democratic Party is delivering more candidates around the nation like Stacey Abrams, recently nominated for governor in Georgia. She’s unabashedly boilerplate, in-your-face, hard left. Pro-big government, pro-abortion, pro-LGBT rights.
Recent Wall Street Journal/NBC polling shows how the Democratic Party has changed. In 2004, 67 percent of Democrats identified as moderate or conservative and 31 percent identified as liberal. In 2018, we see a shift to the left of 20 points. Forty-seven percent identify as moderate or conservative and 51 percent as liberal.
Amid all this, what might we expect from blacks, Democrats’ most consistent voting bloc? In 14 presidential elections since 1964, Democratic candidates captured an average 88 percent of the black vote. But blacks generally don’t fit the far-left profile. According to recent data from the Pew Research Center, black Democrats have very little religiously in common with white Democrats. Religious behavior of black Democrats is much more closely aligned with white Republicans.
Forty-seven percent of black Democrats say they attend church at least weekly, compared to 45 percent of white Republicans and 22 percent of white Democrats
But it’s not just religious attitudes that raise questions about black monolithic affinity for the Democratic Party.
In the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape study, 36 percent of historically black Protestants described themselves as conservative and 24 percent as liberal. Regarding the role of government, 23 percent of historically black Protestants say they prefer smaller government and fewer services and 70 percent say they prefer larger government and more services.
Regarding government aid to the poor, 27 percent of historically black Protestants say government does more harm than good and 66 percent say government does more good.
You might say that these responses explain why blacks vote disproportionately for Democrats.
But that’s not correct.
The data reported above is for what Pew defines as “historically black protestant”—which, according to Pew, consists of 53 percent of all blacks. However, according to Pew, 79 percent of blacks identify as Christian.
Pew reports in addition to 47 percent of all black Democrats saying they attend church at least once per week, 74 percent say they pray daily, and 76 percent say religion is “very important” in their lives.
So data that Pew reports for historically black Protestants seems to be a reasonably rough sample of black attitudes in general.
When 36 percent identify as conservative, and when 27 percent say government assistance to the poor does more harm than good, yet on average, 88 percent of blacks are voting for Democrats, something is amiss.
Voting Democrat is not written in black genes. From 1936 to 1960, the black vote for the Republican presidential candidate averaged 30 percent. In 1956, 39 percent of blacks voted for Dwight Eisenhower.
Black voting behavior has far reaching implications, as America changes demographically into a country less and less white. In 1980, 88 percent of voters were white. In 2016, 70 percent were. This trend will continue.
In a Harvard-Harris Poll, 33 percent of blacks say they are now “better off” financially and 32 percent approve of the way Trump is handling the economy.
Republican Party outreach to blacks has ratcheted up considerably since the Obama years.
If Republicans can succeed in courting these church-going black Christians, we could see a political realignment in the country that will change profoundly America’s political landscape.•
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Parker is an author and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education.