Black and Latino Voters Could Elect Donald Trump

U.S. politics might be on the edge of racial realignment. Polls show former President Donald Trump within striking distance of a majority among Hispanic voters, and as much as 20% of Black voters vote. If those percentages hold, it would be an unprecedented showing for a GOP candidate in modern times.

Among white voters, polls have shown little change since 2020, indicating shifts in white voters could ultimately determine the election. Even if a minor realignment occurs, Trump will almost certainly win. If it doesn’t, he’ll be the underdog.

The Republicans’ voting base is continuing to change. However, the GOP campaign apparatus and donors haven’t completely woken up to it. It’s past time for aggressive investments to mobilize and register new voters.

As the GOP has lost college-educated voters and gained working-class ones, the party has ended up on the defense in special elections. These contests typically are decided by affluent voters, who frequently vote. However, 2024 isn’t a special election, and GOP victory swings on turning out the kinds of voters who come out, but typically only in presidential elections — like it did when these turnout patterns helped former President Trump win in 2016 and outperform 2020 pre-election polls.

Trump’s campaign against voting by mail in 2020 defeated itself, so his daughter-in-law and new co-chair of the Republican National Committee, Lara Trump’s expression of support for legal ballot harvesting was encouraging. However, the GOP needs to go further and start talking to younger, more diverse voters — especially men — driving home a shift to the right. These votes could also be decisive in an expanded battleground in the Senate that includes Nevada and Michigan.

Polling shows that the most substantial shifts to Donald Trump are happening among those on the political fringes — people who can easily stay home. 2023 polling for the Texas Latino Conservatives PAC showed Trump doing 20 percentage points better among nonvoting Latinos than among those who voted in the midterm election in 2022.

This is no longer the GOP of the older white voter. Instead of pining for yesterday’s voters, Republicans must focus on getting a new coalition to the polls.

With the wind at the back of the GOP, polls show the most significant gains are coming among nonwhite conservative or moderate voters who already agree with them on most issues. While Black — and, in many cases, Hispanic — voters have voted historically as a bloc, more are now voting more ideologically, which benefits the former president.

While Republicans will more than likely not be able to win outright the Black vote for the foreseeable future, a realignment along ideological lines would raise the GOP vote to 25% to 30%. That would indicate a permanent 3—to 4-percentage-point shift in the national popular vote, which would likely end Republicans’ 20-year failure to capture the majority of the nationwide presidential popular vote.

Many will say we have heard all of this before. The GOP talks about minority outreach or recruits minority candidates, only to see Black voters continue to vote Democratic by 90% or more.

According to scholars Cheryl N. Laird and Ismail K. White, the extent of the Democratic advantage among black voters is a historical anomaly. In their 2020 book Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior, they wrote that Black voters are held together more by social norms that penalize the small number of Republican defectors than by shared ideological preferences.

While social institutions like the Black church continue to weaken, the authors write that pressure on conservative Black voters to continue to vote Democrat will fade. If enough individuals flip, social norms become unenforceable, and voting patterns could quickly change.

One example of this is in Starr County, Texas. The 98% Hispanic county went from a reliable Democrat stronghold to a narrow 52% to 47% split for Biden in 2020. In 2018, only a dozen voters in Starr County bucked the machine to pull a GOP primary ballot. However, a slight uptick in Republican campaigning in 2020 — for Trump, who was trying to get people back to work amid lingering Covid-19 lockdowns — was enough to generate a sudden 55-point shift.

Extending GOP gains in Starr County in 2024 requires specific campaigning within the Black community. This will involve touting recent Republican gains and focusing on issues where Democrats have left nonwhite voters behind. This will send a social signal for more individuals to flip.

What should Republicans do? Text messages, canvassing, television ads, and mailers on a scale not seen before. What should the party focus on? The southern border’s illegal immigrant crisis, the cost of living, parental rights in schools, and the green transitions are all issues that divide today’s Democratic Party from these voters. Messages about hard work and opportunity — and Democrats being a party of handouts — will resonate with Hispanics.

From Republicans, a nonwhite realignment matters for elections far beyond 2024. It would disrupt a Democratic coalition that depends on the support of culturally conservative nonwhites. With a significant shift in minority communities, the GOP would frequently be the majority party, even if it doesn’t recover well-educated white voters. With data demonstrating this core pillar of the Democratic coalition wavering, the time for a solid push is now.