If Kanye West ran for president as an Independent, he would be taking votes away from Donald Trump, not Joe Biden.
Kanye West has flirted with running for president for nearly five years. It first started during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, when Kanye — who was still considered a genius who could do little wrong — accepted the then-titled Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Kanye wrapped up his speech — which MTV called “incredible” — by declaring that he was going to run for president in 2020. There was rapturous applause to this statement.
It was obvious bullshit, something Kanye just said at the heat of the moment. But that didn’t stop YouGov from doing some polling. The numbers were not encouraging; only 13 percent said they had a very favorable or somewhat favorable view of the Chicago rapper.
A lot has happened since then. Kanye West has become a billionaire Donald Trump-supporting, MAGA-hat wearing Christian republican, who has openly told Black people they shouldn’t blindly vote for Democrats.
And yet, ever since Kanye West again announced that he seriously wants to run for president in 2020, people have assumed that this would be disastrous because Kanye would be taking votes away from Democratic nominee Joe Biden. (In an interview with Forbes, Kanye let his thoughts about Biden be known, saying he’s “not special.” )
On Monday, July 13th, when Chance the Rapper insinuated he was throwing his support behind a potential Kanye West run, many responded that he was taking votes away from Biden.
Everything I seen been more on the #anyonebutKanye side, but I understand the only vote for who I think can win politics
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) July 13, 2020
This is an understandable way to think, considering Kanye West is (or was?) a popular young Black rapper with a fanbase that tends to be young, Black, democratic, and not hugely excited by Biden. The idea is that Kanye would become Biden’s Jill Stein. (Trump himself supported this theory.)
One problem: there is absolutely zero evidence for this claim. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite — a Kanye run would hurt Trump more.
In 2018, YouPoll and Huffington Post did a followup poll to the 2015 poll. This one showed favorable ratings by party. It turns out Kanye West had higher favorable ratings amongst Republicans then he did with Democrats. According to the poll, 34 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of West and an unfavorable rating of 43 percent. While Democrats had a 69 unfavorable compared to a 13 percent favorable. Independents had a 53 percent unfavorable and a 13 percent favorable rating.
On Monday, even more up-to-date polling info was released. Consulting firm Redfield & Wilton Strategies polled 2,000 registered voters the week of July 9. Joe Biden held a comfortable lead with 48 percent of the vote compared to Donald Trump who is polling at 39 percent. They then did a poll adding Kanye. That poll shows West gathers just 2 percent of the vote.
Biden 48% (+8)
Jorgensen (L) 1%
Hawkins (G) 1%
— Political Polls (@PpollingNumbers) July 13, 2020
But that’s only one part of the story. The real story is the fact that West takes away votes from Trump, a Republican, not Biden, a Democrat. Trump drops to 38 percent while Biden stays at 48 percent. Meaning a Kanye run would hurt Trump more than it would Biden. As it turns out, years of unabashed Trump support matters more than being Black.
This won’t matter much because Kanye’s potential presidential campaign is sputtering, despite having the support of Chance the Rapper and, uh, Elon Muzik (kinda). According to New York Magazine, Kanye took early steps last week toward getting his name on the ballot in Florida and other states as a third-party candidate.
Kanye hired Steve Kramer, a specialist who gets candidates on the ballots. It seems like Kanye was all in…and then just changed his mind soon after.
Kramer told NY Mag:
“We had overwhelming support to get him on the ballot…Whether anybody is going to vote for him or not is up to them…They got a lot of people who they’ve got both on their volunteer side and their contracted side.”
The reporter reached out to Kanye’s team for confirmation. They stalled on the answer. Then the reporter got a note — Kanye was out. Kramer didn’t specify what happened.
Maybe the Kanye team got hold of some polling data.