The relationship between Black Americans and the Republican Party has drawn considerable attention in recent years. Discussions have ranged from why Black men voted for Donald Trump at higher rates than Black women in the 2020 presidential election to more recent debates about Black pop culture and the appeal of GOP-aligned candidates in both national and local politics.
The partisan balance among Black adults in the United States is little changed over the last several decades, but it shifted substantially in the mid-20th century. In the 1930s, Black adults were just as likely to support the Republican Party as the Democratic Party. The share of Black adults who affiliated with the GOP started to decline in the 1940s, particularly after President Harry S. Truman, a Democrat, issued an executive order to desegregate the U.S. military in 1948. This shift was solidified after the passage of the Civil Rights Act under Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Today, only about one-in-ten Black adults identify with or lean toward the Republican Party. And in a Pew Research Center survey in October, only 4% of Black registered voters said they would vote for the Republican candidate for the U.S. House seat in their district, while 69% said they would back the Democratic candidate.
When it comes to their views on race, Black Republicans differ from Black Democrats in one key way: They tend to support individualistic approaches to addressing racial inequality, while Black Democrats tend to support institutional approaches. For example, Black Republicans and those who lean to the GOP are more likely than Black Democrats and Democratic leaners (59% vs. 41%) to say that the bigger problem for Black people is racist acts committed by individual people, as opposed to racism in our laws. And they are less likely than Black Democrats to support complete institutional overhauls to the prison system (35% vs. 57%), policing (29% vs. 52%) and the judicial process (35% vs. 50%) to ensure fair treatment of Black people.
Here are 10 facts about Black Republicans and what they think about race and identity, based on recent Center surveys. All findings about Republicans and Democrats include independents who lean to each party.
Related: Latino Republicans hold distinct views on guns and immigration, highlighting their shaky ties to GOP
In recent years, Pew Research Center has conducted multiple studies that focus specifically on Black Americans and their views on religion, personal identity, science and medicine, and racial inequality. This analysis of Black Republicans relies on data from two of these focused surveys.
The first was conducted among 8,660 Black adults (ages 18 and older) from Nov. 19, 2019, to June 3, 2020, and contains data from four sources: Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (conducted online), NORC’s AmeriSpeak panel (conducted online or by phone), Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel (conducted online) and a national cross-sectional survey by the Center (conducted online and by mail). For more information on this study, see its methodology and questionnaire.
The other survey was conducted among 3,912 Black adults from Oct. 4 to 17, 2021. The survey includes 1,025 Black adults on the Center’s American Trends Panel and 2,887 Black adults on Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel. Respondents on both panels are recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. For more information on this study, see its methodology. The questions asked in this survey can be found here and here.
Recruiting panelists by phone or mail ensures that nearly all U.S. Black adults have a chance of selection. This gives us confidence that any sample can represent the whole population (see our Methods 101 explainer on random sampling).
Black Republicans are younger than Black Democrats, as well as White Republicans. Around three-in-ten Black Republicans (28%) are ages 18 to 29 – higher than the share among Black Democrats (17%) and White Republicans (10%). Black Republicans are less likely than Black Democrats and White Republicans to be 65 and older: 9% are in this age group, versus 18% of Black Democrats and 28% of White Republicans.
Black Republicans have a similar income profile to Black Democrats. Black Republicans are about as likely as Black Democrats to live in upper-income (12% vs. 10%) or middle-income households (37% vs. 40%). And roughly half of both groups live in lower-income ones. However, Black Republicans are much more likely than White Republicans (50% vs. 18%) to live in lower-income households.
As is the case among Black Democrats, roughly half of Black Republicans live in the South. Black Republicans are about as likely as Black Democrats to live in Southern states (52% vs. 56%), but more likely than White Republicans (38%) to do so. Black Republicans are less likely than White Republicans to live in the Midwest (17% vs. 27%) or the West (13% vs. 20%).
Black Republicans are less likely than Black Democrats to attend Black churches. In both parties, most Black adults identify as Protestant. However, Black Republicans are less likely than Black Democrats (22% vs. 34%) to attend predominantly Black Protestant churches. Black Republicans and Democrats are about as likely to be Catholic (6% each) or religiously unaffiliated (24% vs. 21%).
Black Republicans are less likely than Black Democrats to say being Black is a significant part of their personal identity. While about six-in-ten Black Republicans (58%) say being Black is an extremely or very important part of how they think about themselves, an even larger share of Black Democrats (82%) say the same. Black Republicans are also more likely than Black Democrats (21% vs. 6%) to say Blackness is a little or not at all important to how they think about themselves.
Black Republicans are about as likely as Black Democrats to see their ancestry as important to how they see themselves. Black Republicans are just as likely as Black Democrats (66% vs. 65%) to say their ancestry is an extremely or very important part of their personal identity. They are also about as likely as Black Democrats to know that their ancestors were enslaved (54% vs. 59%) and to speak to their relatives about their family history (78% vs. 77%).
Black Republicans are less likely than Black Democrats to express a sense of “linked fate” with Black people in the U.S. About four-in-ten Black Republicans (39%) say that everything or most things that happen to Black people in the U.S. will affect their own lives. A larger share of Black Democrats (57%) say the same.
Black Republicans are about as likely as Black Democrats to report frequent experiences of discrimination. About eight-in-ten Black Republicans (79%) say they have personally experienced discrimination because of their race or ethnicity. This includes 20% who say they have experienced discrimination regularly and 59% who say they have experienced it from time to time. Similarly, 80% of Black Democrats report experiences of racial discrimination, either regularly or from time to time.
Black Republicans differ from Black Democrats in their views on racial discrimination as a barrier to progress. Despite experiencing racial discrimination at similar rates, Black Republicans and Democrats differ in how they view its effects. Black Republicans are less likely than Black Democrats (44% vs. 73%) to say racial discrimination is the main reason Black people can’t get ahead in the U.S., and they are more likely to say Black people who can’t get ahead are mostly responsible for their own condition (45% vs. 21%).
Black Republicans are just as skeptical as Black Democrats about the prospects for equality. Black Republicans are about as likely as Black Democrats (39% vs. 45%) to say equality for Black people in the U.S. is a little or not all likely. In fact, only about 15% of Black adults in either partisan coalition say equality for Black people is extremely or very likely.