President Donald Trump claimed Tuesday that African Americans are so delighted with his attacks on the city of Baltimore and US congressman Elijah Cummings, an African American, that they are calling him at the White House in large numbers to thank him.
He also claimed that African Americans are generally happy with his performance as president.
“What I’ve done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done. Now, I’ll say this: they are so happy, because I get the calls,” he told reporters as he left for a speech in Virginia that was boycotted by black state lawmakers. “They are so happy at what I’ve been able to do in Baltimore and other Democratic-run, corrupt cities.”
He continued later: “The African American people have been calling the White House. They have never been so happy as what a president has done. Not only the lowest unemployment in history for African Americans, not only opportunity zones for, really, the biggest beneficiary the inner city, and not only criminal justice reform. But they’re so happy that I pointed out the corrupt politics of Baltimore. It’s filthy dirty. It’s so horrible. And they are happy as hell.”
Since the controversy over Trump’s comments about Baltimore and Cummings is too new to be captured by most of the available polling data, we can’t definitively fact-check Trump’s claim about African Americans’ views on these remarks – though it’s worth noting that Trump has a history of inventing nonexistent phone calls and making dubious claims about people expressing gratitude him in private conversations.
We can, however, definitively fact-check his claim that African Americans are generally pleased with his performance.
They are not.
Facts First: African Americans are overwhelmingly unhappy with Trump’s job performance, polls have consistently shown.
Exit polls of the 2016 election found that Trump received 8% of votes cast by African Americans, with 89% of them choosing Democrat Hillary Clinton. Opinion polls in the subsequent two-and-a-half years have found that he remains highly unpopular among African Americans.
Trump began talking negatively about Cummings and Baltimore in a series of tweets on July 27. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted from July 25 to July 28 – two days before the tweets, the day of the tweets, and one day after the tweets – Trump had a 6% approval rating and 84% disapproval rating with black voters. Eighty percent of black voters said Trump is racist, while just 11% said he is not.
A Fox News poll conducted from July 21 to July 23 had Trump at 75% disapproval among black registered voters, with 22% approval. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted June 28 to July 1, 81% of African Americans said they disapproved; 18% approved. Both of those approval numbers were substantially better than the one in the new Quinnipiac poll, but still: On the whole, large majorities of African Americans were displeased with him.
Trump’s tweets about Cummings and Baltimore were not identical to his tweets about four Democratic congresswomen of color two weeks prior. But it’s important to note that black voters were unhappy about those earlier tweets: 76% in the Fox News poll said it is racist to tell a person of color to “go back” to their country of origin, while 9% said it was not. (Only one of the four congresswomen, Rep. Ilhan Omar, was born abroad.)
In the Fox poll, just 11% of black registered voters approved of how he was handling race relations; 83% disapproved. And, when asked if Trump respects racial minorities, 78% of black registered voters said no.
Trump has emphasized the economy in his pitch to black voters, noting on Tuesday and on numerous previous occasions that the African American unemployment rate has fallen to a record low 6.0% during his tenure. (It fell from 12.7% to 7.9% under President Barack Obama, then from 7.9% to 6.0% under Trump.) But black voters remain unhappy with Trump even on the economy in particular: 64% in the Fox News poll disapproved of his handling of the issue.
There was not a single issue on which black voters in the Fox poll gave him a net positive rating.