As polls show an uptick in support for the presumed Republican nominee, experts say the support for Trump is tied to inflation and a history of incumbents being held responsible for the nation’s economic woes, something that disproportionately affects Black voters.


Terrance Copeland, a lifelong Democrat, remembers how eager he was for change when he voted for Barack Obama. Today, he plans to vote for Donald Trump because he’s just as eager for change. 

Copeland, who has a full-time job with the City of San Diego, a successful party bus side business, and a home and kids of his own, said his financial foothold is as solid as it has ever been but worries another four years of Joe Biden could change that.

Copeland is one of a group of usually reliable Black Democrats who are considering voting for Trump because inflation disproportionately affects them, social issues and policy failures have turned some off to the Democratic party, and growth among wealthy Black voters has socialized broadening support for the Republican party. 

“The most memorable election I’ve been a part of was 2008, we were so hype about the idea of change,” said Copeland. 

“I’m ready for more change; we all want change,” he said, “because this ain’t it.”

Donald Trump’s increasing support across a key demographic of the Democrat’s base is raising the stakes for an already close race just six months ahead of election day. 

In 2016, 8% of Black voters voted for President Trump. By 2020, that number had grown by five percentage points, and today‘s polling numbers are above 23% - the highest percentage of the Black vote for a Republican since Richard Nixon. Trump’s favorable polling numbers grew towards the end of his time in office and throughout the Biden presidency as inflation skyrocketed to more than 8% in 2022. 

Members of the Black community say they think the growing support is no accident, as many feel left out of a post-pandemic recovery and struggle with high inflation. 

The majority of 2016 supporters for Trump were largely written off as fans of the mystique of Trump, said Kendis Gibson, a journalist and panelist at a recent National Action Network event covering the Black community. Today, he said, that’s a much different story. 

“It is something the Democratic Party has to have a conversation with itself - we can question some of it  - but there is some underlying truth to it,” said Gibson.

‘What do you have to lose?’

Black voters are increasing their support for Trump because the lingering impacts of inflation impact them disproportionately. 

At a Michigan rally in 2016, Trump asked Black voters, “What do you have to lose?” And nearly eight years later, some experts think it might be working.

“He does it in a PT Barnum type of way,” said Dr. Gregory Price, the JPMorgan Chase professor of  economics at the University of New Orleans. Price, who researches the effects of race on economic stratification, said he’s surprised by Trump’s latest poll numbers, but attributes the former president’s uptick in Black support to frustration with the incumbent and not a substantive economic policy that carves out a  specific plan to advance Black economic issues.

“He’s empty, he’s making claims, but it seems to be attracting Black support,” Price said. “I don’t know if it’s enough to win.”

Historically - as in the last 70 years or so - Black voters have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates. In 2024, they are a key part of the voter base.

“Democrats earned the Black vote,” said Price.

But socioeconomic progress, a narrowing unemployment gap and growth across the middle and upper tiers of Black wealth have started to erode that unwavering “legacy” support, according to Price.

Trump’s appeal has little to do with his party affiliation or the cache associated with his brand. Trump is polling higher among Black voters because he isn’t Joe Biden.

Black voters are seeing their support for Biden and the Democrats waver because they can no longer look the other way on social issues and policy failures.

Black voters, like Mecca Goan, said their socioeconomic status or lack thereof isn’t what informs their decision to vote Trump

Goan, 50, works as a home health aide and said Biden has done little to improve the lives of Black New Yorkers.

“We need Trump,” she said.

Goan described Trump’s first presidency as a time for “getting money.” 

“Donald Trump says some crazy sh–t, but he stands by it,” Goan said. 

For Goan, Biden’s record of promises made and promises kept has made it hard for her to take him seriously as a candidate.

Goan voted for Obama twice but felt let down by the country’s first Black president and has voted for Trump in the two elections. 

“Bring him back,” she said. 

Biden’s shrinking poll numbers among Black voters come as the pool of upper-tier wealth Black households has grown. From 2019 to 2021, the most recent data shows three percentage points of growth among middle and upper wealth tiers, possibly explaining Trump’s rising popularity across the demographic.

Partisanship in the Black community is tied to collective trauma, turning into a default voting block, but wealthier Black households tend to eschew this trend, according to Chyrl Laird, assistant professor of government and legal studies at Bowdoin College, who co-wrote the book, “Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior.” 

“Part of that is that basically there is a norm that has developed over time that has basically tied together Black identity and partisanship, to some degree, basically to be Black is to be Democrat,” Laird said on the “Princeton University Press: Ideas Podcast.”

For Laird, an increase in wealth doesn’t always yield a change in party affiliation but often serves as the fulcrum for the shift for already socially conservative Black voters. 

“If they have those connections outside of the Black community, which is what we show in the book, that integration sort of enables this embracing of the turning of conservatism into Republican Party support,” said Laird.

‘We should be doing better.’

Copeland, despite a socioeconomic shift upward, said he isn’t wealthy enough to vote Republican from here on out, but he’s no longer committed to just voting the ticket from here on out.

“I don’t know, but I just feel like we should be doing better than we are,” said Copeland. “Like I want the best of both worlds: low rates, I came out the pandemic ahead, having bought a house, and once Biden took office I felt like I was in a great place.”

“Then prices went up and it’s not fair,” he said. “Just as we get a little ahead we go back to not affording things.”

The story of the recovery coming out of the pandemic feels as if it excluded Black Americans, but the data on things like unemployment, earnings and net worth, though worse than their white counterparts, tells a different story. 

Black unemployment sits at 5.6%, an all-time low, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earnings have grown dramatically since the middle of Obama’s second term through Trump’s presidency and the first two years of the Biden Administration. Under Trump, Black wages grew by $8000. Biden accomplished the same amount of growth, in half the time, according to the most recently available data.

Gibson said coverage of what Biden has done for the Black community has primarily gone underreported, and that is snowballing into trouble at the polls for Biden.

“Black men have always had an increasingly soft spot for Donald Trump,” Gibson said.