Opinion: For The Love Of Black Jesus, Please Ignore The Polls

These polls are not just inaccurate; they distort the political landscape.

Turn on any cable news channel, and you’ll be bombarded with endless drivel about the polls. Pundits incessantly dissect the polls, surrogates are grilled over the polls, and think pieces proliferate on what politicians should do based on the polls. It’s a maddening, imaginary rat race, and the real losers are the American people, especially when the polls claim to be the voice of Black voters. Please do not believe the polls, whether they're favorable or not. Polls cause more harm than good and, at this point, are tools of misinformation. 

I'm sure you've heard the never-ending stories about President Joe Biden dramatically losing the Black vote. And, of course, there's another gem making the rounds – apparently, convicted felon Donald Trump is gaining ground among Black voters. Why do I say ignore the polls? Because of recent history.

Trump making inroads with Black voters was a narrative in 2020 from ABC News to Politico. What actually happened? Trump got a lower share of the Black vote in 2020 than he did in 2016. Polls kept predicting Black men are running to Trump, but his support among Black men dropped from 14% in 2016 to 12% in 2020, while Biden’s support increased from 81% to 87%. The Brookings Institution called Trump’s appeal to Black men “illusory.” Who created this illusion and why? There was never a correction or an acknowledgment from polling organizations for the “illusory” narrative. 

This same storyline popped up during President Barack Obama’s administration. Back in 2012, there were reports of Obama struggling with Black voters. The result? Obama earned the largest share of the Black vote in recorded history

Even at the local level, polls miss the mark. Last month, polls showed Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and U.S. Rep. David Trone in a “dead heat” for the Democratic Senate nomination in Maryland. Despite Trone spending $60 million of his own money, Alsobrooks molly-whopped Trone, winning by over 10 points, far from a “dead heat.” Alsobrooks is the first Black woman to win the Democratic Senate nomination in Maryland. 

The Fearless Fund And the Threat to Civil Rights: The Dangers of Weaponizing History

Favorable polls for Democrats can also be misleading. For instance, in October 2016, polls showed Hillary Clinton with an 11-point lead over Trump in Michigan, which may have contributed to her limited visits to the state between September and November. Polls also showed Clinton leading in Wisconsin, another state she scarcely visited toward the end of her campaign. Why invest more time in a state when the “polls'' declare you have it in the bag? Trump won Michigan and Wisconsin, securing the presidential election win in 2016. 

What exactly is a political poll? To make it plain, polling organizations survey a “sample size” of people, ranging from 100 to 5,000 or more. Many of these polls are conducted via landlines, which fewer Americans still use, or with the hope people will answer their cell phones from an unknown number. Then there is how the polling questions are asked, whether the person is telling the truth and whether they are a likely voter or a registered voter. A report by the American Association for Public Opinion Research found that polls for the 2020 presidential election were the least accurate in 40 years, with state polls the worst in two decades. Trust me, that hasn’t changed in 2024. Politico noted that it is "impossible" to determine the exact reasons for these inaccuracies. In 2022, Dr. David Hill, the Director of Hill Research Consultants, said the quiet part out loud to PBS, “If we’re honest … this is all a complete mess today because we can’t really have a true random sample anymore because we can’t get a random sample or anything close to that to cooperate.” 

Last month, The Washington Post published a new poll claiming that Biden was struggling with Black voters. The number of “Black adults” they polled? 1,300. Yep, according to this poll, 1,300 people speak for the sentiments of nearly 48 million Black people in America. 

Polls create media hysteria and misinformation. If you repeat a lie often enough, people might start believing it. Let me spell out what the talking heads won't: these so-called polls that keep parroting the absurd notion that Black people are Trump enthusiasts—yes, the same convicted felon who reduces us to mugshots and indictments—are outdated, historically wrong and serve as nothing more than clickbait for the pundit class. Black folks supporting the former president—according to the polls— who peddles racism is headline news. Pundits foam at the mouth to pontificate on this illusory “breaking news.” Maybe the intention is to find someone to point the finger, heaven help us if Trump gets back in the Oval Office. Who will get the blame? Not white voters, who have been voting majority Republican in every presidential election since 1964 – but Black voters. 

Reporting on these bogus polls is peak media malpractice when most of us haven't been polled and don't know a soul who has. Democrats have their own homework to earn the Black vote, but let's be real: Republicans are offering us absolutely nothing.

What is the GOP plan for voting rights? Decimating the Voting Rights Act.

What is the GOP plan for police brutality? Gutting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, courtesy of South Carolina Senator Tim Scott.

What's the GOP's plan for Black entrepreneurs? Suing an organization that assists Black women entrepreneurs by arming the 1866 Civil Rights Act against them.

While Democrats have their imperfections and need to focus on incentivizing the non-voter (the largest voting bloc), the Biden-Harris administration has achieved notable successes for Black communities: historic funding for HBCUs, crucial judicial appointments, and a doubling of SBA support for Black-owned businesses in Fiscal Year 2023. Though not without flaws, these accomplishments are often downplayed or misrepresented by pundits eager to be contrarian.

Stop letting misleading polls dictate the narrative, especially when it comes to the Black vote. These polls are not just inaccurate; they distort the political landscape. Black communities deserve better than to be reduced to faulty numbers. We need to focus on the real issues and hold political parties accountable for their policies, not their poll standings. Ignore the polls and false equivalencies. Focus on substantive progress. Only then can we ensure that the voices of Black communities are heard and respected.

Clay Cane is a SiriusXM radio host and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Grift: The Downward Spiral of Black Republicans From the Party of Lincoln to the Cult of Trump.

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