Donald Trump won the US presidency with less support from black and Hispanic voters than any president in at least 40 years, a Reuters review of polling data shows, highlighting deep national divisions that have fuelled incidents of racial and political confrontation.
Trump was elected with 8% of the black vote, 28% of the Hispanic vote and 27% of the Asian-American vote, according to the Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll.
Among black voters, his showing was comparable to the 9% captured by George W Bush in 2000 and Ronald Reagan in 1984. But Bush and Reagan both did far better with Hispanic voters, capturing 35% and 34%, respectively, according to exit polling data compiled by the non-partisan Roper Centre for Public Opinion Research.
And Trump’s performance among Asian-Americans was the worst of any winning presidential candidate since tracking of that demographic began in 1992.
The racial polarization behind Trump’s victory has helped set the stage for tensions that have surfaced repeatedly since the election, in white supremacist victory celebrations, in anti-Trump protests and civil rights rallies, and in hundreds of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic hate crimes documented by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), which tracks extremist movements. The SPLC reports there were 701 incidents of “hateful harassment and intimidation” between the day following the November 8 election and November 16, with a spike in such incidents in the immediate wake of the vote.
The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a white separatist group that vilifies African-Americans, Jews and other minorities, plans an unusual December 3 rally in North Carolina to celebrate Trump’s victory. Left-wing and anarchist groups have called for organised protests to disrupt the President-elect’s January 20 inauguration. And a “Women’s March on Washington,” scheduled for the following day, is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to protest Trump’s presidency.
Division breeds confrontation
Though Trump’s election victory was driven by white voters, his performance even among that group was not as strong as some of his predecessors. Reagan and George HW Bush both won the presidency with higher shares of the white vote than the 55% that Trump achieved.
The historical voting patterns reflect decades of polarisation in American politics, but the division surrounding Trump appears more profound, says Cas Mudde, an associate professor specializing in political extremism at the University of Georgia. These days, he adds, “people say they don’t want their children even to date someone from the other party.”
Indeed, voters’ opinions of those on the opposite side of the partisan divide have reached historic lows. Surveys by the Pew Research Centre showed this year that majorities of both parties held “very unfavourable” views of the other party - a first since the centre first measured such sentiment in 1992.
On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Trump’s election is bringing new hope for right-wing activists who felt abandoned by the major parties.
John Roberts, a top officer in the Ku Klux Klan affiliate planning the December rally to celebrate Trump’s election, says the group is committed to non-violent demonstrations, but he sees Trump’s election as likely to bring a new era of political conflict. And much of the strife, he says, will be centered around racial divisions.
“Once Trump officially takes office, there is going to be a boiling over at some point in time,” Roberts says. “Who knows when that’s going to be, but it’s not going to be pretty.”