Trump campaign sought to deter Blacks, others, from voting in 2016, TV report says

Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou

Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign disproportionately targeted African Americans with misleading digital advertisements to deter them from voting, according to an investigation broadcast Monday by Channel 4 News in London.

The investigation said that Trump’s 2016 digital team used data to separate voters into eight different “audiences” and target them with tailored advertisements. About 3.5 million Black voters were categorized as “Deterrence” – or voters who were not likely to vote for Trump and could potentially be deterred from voting at all. People of color made up more than half that category, the report says.

Channel 4 alleged that the Trump campaign attempted to dissuade Black voters from backing Democrat Hillary Clinton by targeting them with advertisements that misstated her record on racial issues.

There would be nothing illegal about such a strategy, noted Christopher Metzler, a Republican consultant and legal scholar, in part of the Channel 4 report. 

"These digital advertising, micro-targeting, that is now the way campaigns work, or are currently working," Metzler said. "I see nothing wrong."

The campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The news comes as Facebook already faces backlash for widespread misinformation and fake advertisements on its platform.

Trump is faring badly with Black voters again in 2020, with single-digit support, according to some polls.

Donald Trump's former presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort, with President Donald Trump in this July 21, 2016, file photo during sound checks for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

The cache of data on almost 200 million American voters obtained by Channel 4 showed that African Americans were disproportionately included in the “deterrence” category in 16 key battleground states, some of which Trump won by a small margin.

In Georgia, Black voters make up 32% of the population but accounted for 61% of the “deterrence” category. In North Carolina, Black voters made up 46% of that category, even thought they are 22% of the state’s population, and in Wisconsin, where they constitute 5.4% of the population, 17% were labeled as “deterrence.”