When it comes to voting, “party matters so much more than race.”
That’s the conclusion reached by David Niven, a University of Cincinnati professor of political science who released a study last week looking into whether black Republicans, like Ben Carson, can win black votes. The conclusion reached was a definitive no — black voters are more likely to vote for black candidates, unless the candidate is a Republican.
“There are some very successful African American Republicans, but those folks don’t attract African American votes,” Niven said in a University of Cincinnati press release, contradicting the GOP’s strategy to recruit black and Hispanic candidates as a way to win over those electorates.
The study looked at voters in majority black precincts in Franklin County, Ohio and examined how they voted in the 2014 general election. Niven sent mailers to voters in support of black candidates — some of which identified the candidate’s party and some that did not. After analyzing the election results and how the mailers affected voting, Niven concluded that race is significant to black voters, but it’s not their primary political influence.
“Simply knowing the candidate was African American did almost nothing for Republicans,” Niven said. “If voters knew the candidates were Republican, they finished below the top of the ticket. If voters didn’t know the candidates were Republican, they outperformed the top of the ticket.”
The Republican Party’s 2013 autopsy report, produced in response to Mitt Romney’s defeat by President Barack Obama in 2012, said the party should make efforts to reverse its alienation of minorities. In order to appeal to the Hispanic community, the report recommended that the party “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform” — something the primary candidates have wholeheartedly ignored. It also advised members of the party to “establish a presence in African American communities and at black organizations such as the NAACP.”
“Too many African American voters have gotten in the habit of supporting Democrats without hearing anyone in their community making a case to the contrary,” the report continued. It also said that the Republican National Committee should work to “develop best practices of Republicans who were successfully elected in districts with a high population of African American voters.”
But according to Nevin’s study, black voters’ contempt for the Republican Party may run deeper than strategists think. The Republican Party continues to support a number of policies that hurt black Americans, like restrictive voting measures including voter ID laws and other economic and social policies that alienate voters of color.
Ben Carson has made attempts to win over black voters, like visiting Baltimore after the Freddie Gray protests and Ferguson last week. Yet he continues to make comments that alienate the demographic, like calling the Black Lives Matter movement “silly.”
But according to the study, his comments aren’t all that significant. Nothing he says or does will be able to surpass his biggest liability — his party.