It’s Monday morning, and Donald Trump has already tweeted something completely wrong.
Here’s the tweet:
Inner-city crime is reaching record levels. African-Americans will vote for Trump because they know I will stop the slaughter going on!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2016
Let’s be clear: Both parts of this tweet are completely wrong. Inner-city crime isn’t at or reaching record levels, and black Americans aren’t going to vote for Trump. This is just another example of Trump trying to manipulate voters in his direction.
Inner-city crime is not reaching record levels
Let’s start with crime.
Rosenfeld did find a 16.8 percent increase in the homicide rate — which is used as a proxy to measure all crime, since it’s the most reliable crime statistic — in 56 of the largest US cities from 2014 to 2015.
But that increase comes after America’s massive crime and homicide drop over the past couple decades, and the 16.8 percent rise is nowhere close enough to make up the difference. The homicide rate in these cities isn’t even at the highest point in the past 10 years, as Rosenfeld’s chart demonstrates.
This chart masks a lot of variation, too. The homicide rate increased in most large US cities analyzed by Rosenfeld, particularly Orlando, Cleveland, and Nashville. But it actually decreased in 15 of the 56 cities included in this analysis, including Boston, Austin, and Miami.
The recent uptick in the homicide rate is troubling, but it’s unclear if it represents a change in the decades-long trend downward. Crime rates tend to ebb and flow from month to month and year to year — for example, in 2005 and 2006, the national murder rate ticked up by about 5 percent before falling down to the lowest point in decades in 2013 and 2014. So we’ll just have to wait a few more years before we know what the long-term trend is.
But at the very least, we can say that inner-city crime is not close to record levels.
Black voters are rejecting Donald Trump
Trump’s other claim is that black Americans will vote for him. But he’s doing terrible with black voters, even by Republican standards.
Polls have found that support for Trump among black voters is as low as zero percent in some swing states and 1 percent nationally. In comparison, Mitt Romney got 6 percent of the black vote in 2012 running against the reelection of the nation’s first black president.
A recent survey by Morning Consult found that there is still time to turn around some black voters, 16 percent of whom are undecided. But the poll found that the great majority of black voters — 79 percent of respondents — already plan to vote for Hillary Clinton, compared to the 5 percent who plan to vote for Trump.
Simply put: Trump is not going to win black voters unless the polls so far are incredibly wrong.
Trump is banking on a terrified America to vote for him
If both aspects of Trump’s tweet are wrong, why would he tweet it?
Well, for one, it’s Trump. He tends to lie a lot, as Ezra Klein explained for Vox. So this is just par for the course.
The broader issue here, though, is Trump is essentially trying to scare America — black Americans included — into voting for him. Trump is running as a strongman who would be “tough” on crime, immigration, and terrorism. He’s embraced the mantle of “law and order.” He’s talked about deporting unauthorized immigrants, whom he’s labeled “rapists” and criminals. He’s supported banning all Muslims from entering the US, and mentioned killing the families of suspected terrorists.
But the only way the authoritarian platform makes sense is if America is in such a bad state that it needs a strongman willing to do anything to get it back on course.
Take Trump’s recent pitch to black voters: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?” Trump is trying to present a picture of America that’s so dire for black Americans that, hey, maybe voting for the authoritarian strongman isn’t a bad idea (despite Trump’s history of racism).
Indeed, a previous analysis by Amanda Taub for Vox found that authoritarians are most likely to support Trump, and these voters’ authoritarian beliefs have been “activated” by a changing American landscape that they perceive as more dangerous. For example, 73 percent of “very high authoritarian” respondents to a poll by Morning Consult and Vox said terrorist organizations like ISIS present a high risk to them, while 45 percent of “very low authoritarian” respondents said the same. It’s true that terrorism still kills very few Americans each year — fewer than 25 US citizens a year from 2009 to 2015 — but some voters still feel scared.
So the feeling may not match reality, but it’s the emotion Trump hopes to ride on to win the election.