Will black voters turn out for Clinton the way they did for Obama?

After voting for President Barack Obama in unprecedented numbers during the 2008 and 2012 elections, many wonder if African-American voters will show the party the same support for the Democratic candidate in 2016.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Barack Obama speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner, Saturday in Washington.

After President Barack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012 capitalized on a record high African-American voter turnout, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton hopes to capture the same voting bloc.

While it’s clear that African-American voters prefer Hillary Clinton to her competitor, Donald Trump, the extent of their support is unknown. For Mrs. Clinton to secure their vote, her campaign will have to push black voters to the polls – a task that could depend in part on the community’s loyalty to Mr. Obama, and the party’s ability to muster enthusiasm among voters.

“I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down its guard,” Obama said at a dinner Saturday hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington. “You want to give me a good send off? Go vote!”

While the Clinton campaign has focused on fueling minority turnout, hoping to mobilize any disenchanted voters who don’t feel the same enthusiasm for Clinton they did for Obama in 2008 and 2012, getting a high percentage of black voters to the cast ballots for Clinton might not be as daunting a task as it seems. Since 2000, black and white voters have turned out at nearly the same rates, and in the last two presidential campaigns, a higher percentage of blacks voted than any other race.

Because polls often fail to reach minorities living in segregated urban areas, it can be difficult to gauge black voter turnout ahead of the election. Exit polls from the primaries show that turnout increased among African-Americans older than 45, but stagnated among younger voters.

The Clinton campaign has used several different tactics to rouse the African-American community, including garnering public support from the Obamas.  

‘‘When I hear folks saying that they don’t feel inspired in this election, well let me tell you, I disagree – I am inspired,’’ Michelle Obama said when speaking at a Clinton rally in Fairfax, Va. Friday.

Conversely, Trump has fumbled in his attempts to appeal to African-Americans, in some surveys polling at zero percent of the black vote. The real estate mogul and former reality television star has sought to appeal to black communities by noting their continued suffering under a Democratic administration.

“Look how much African-American communities are suffering under Democratic control,” Trump said at a rally last month in Michigan. “To those, I saw the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump?

Four in five African-Americans hold an unfavorable view of the Republican candidate, and only 6 percent said they would feel comfortable with him serving as commander-in-chief.

While enthusiasm for Obama drove many black voters to the polls in the past two general elections, fear and fierce opposition to Trump could lead them back in similar numbers this year.

In 2008 and 2012, black women in particular had the highest turnout rate of any group, at 74 percent. Regarding this year’s election, 72 percent black women polled said they fear the election’s outcome.

In the poll, black women made up the group of voters most concerned about the election’s outcome, which could make them one of the most likely groups to turnout at the polls again.

"Black women are fearful for the future of our families and Donald Trump almost seems like an existential threat to that,” Rebekah Caruthers, head of the firm Caruthers Consulting, told The Washington Post. “I think that's going to drive black women in droves to the polling place this year."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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