A survey conducted late last year, whose results were released on Wednesday, is shedding light on what Black voters’ top concerns were in the wake of the 2022 midterms and as they looked toward the 2024 presidential election.
The survey, which focused on Black voters in North Carolina, Georgia and California, was conducted by Black to the Future Action Fund and HIT Strategies in December 2022. It found that economic concerns, abortion access, racism, and crime and violence were the top issues driving 1200 Black voters in the three states to the polls in 2022.
“Black voters are critical to winning elections and to winning Democratic majorities,” said Alicia Garza, principal of the Black to the Future Action Fund. “I’m not just talking about parties, I’m also talking about democratic majorities with the little ‘D’ – preserving our ability as a nation to participate in the decisions that impact our lives every single day. Black voters and Black communities do much more for the country than just for ourselves.”
Inflation was the top issue that drove Black voters to the polls for the 2022 midterms, followed by jobs and the economy. Within that, 42 percent of Black voters said they want to see the minimum wage increased to $15 an hour.
But as Black voters look to address the racial wealth gap, 32 percent added that they want to see $50,000 in student loan forgiveness — more than double the $20,000 the Biden administration is currently fighting for in court.
With the Biden administration in mind, Black voters also identified what they want to see from the president and vice president as they await a 2024 presidential announcement, which is expected in the coming weeks.
Forty-four percent of Black voters polled wanted to see gun control legislation that included mandatory background checks passed, and 42 percent wanted white supremacy classified as a national security threat. Forty-one percent of respondents said white supremacist acts should be declared acts of domestic terrorism, while more than half said they worry about being the victim of a hate crime.
Fifty-four percent of Black women said they felt unsafe in this country, and 36 percent of Black men said the same. But, according to the survey, “for Black voters crime and violence is best addressed by getting guns off the street and investing money in safety nets and services, and prosecuting hate crimes — not by increasing funding for policing.”
But Black voters also had ideas for how to tackle crime and violence, and it included reducing funding for police departments.
Thirty-five percent of respondents said they wanted to shift some police funding to preventative services such as mental health support, social workers or drug rehabilitation — 38 percent in California, 34 percent in North Carolina and 32 percent in Georgia.
Though these issues motivated Black voters to cast their ballots in the 2022 midterms, many reported that they faced longer lines than usual and 42 percent said they did not vote because they felt uninformed about their candidate choices.
Black voters in the survey overwhelmingly supported Democrats, with 78 percent reporting they voted for a Democratic candidate. But they also reported a lack of personal engagement with candidates.
Though 79 percent of voters said they saw television ads from Democrats or liberal organizations (compared to 77 percent for Republican or conservative organization ads), 79 percent said they did not have their doors knocked on by Democrats or liberal organizations while 84 percent said they did not have their doors knocked by Republicans or conservative organizations.
“Black voters will turn out to vote if they feel their vote has the power to make change on the issues that matter to them,” said Terrance Woodbury, founding partner of HIT Strategies. “They are a persuasion audience—Black voters will feel empowered when they receive messaging that explains how their votes have delivered positive policy outcomes. Right now, those key priorities for Black voters are cost of living, abortion, and discrimination.”
The result, the poll found, was that 64 percent of Black voters were tasked with encouraging more of their family and friends to vote.
Moving forward, Democrats need to amp up their messaging to Black voters, said LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter.
“Communicate in ways that center the Black experience and capture the nuances of the Black experience, use messages that are rooted in power and not fear, center Black voters and not political candidates, and create spaces that affirm Blackness and create collective joy,” said LaTosha Brown, Co-Founder of Black Voters Matter. “These are just some of the strategies that are critical to reaching Black voters not just during election cycles, but also year-round.”
That means leaders need to highlight what they’ve done to address the concerns Black voters have expressed, and use other resources than just television like social media.
But the Black voters surveyed said they want to be engaged even in between elections. More than 40 percent of Black voters said they want to be invited to town halls or local political events and 30 percent want to be engaged through digital newsletters.
With more engagement, there becomes a higher likelihood of increased voter turnout — in California, 56 percent of respondents said they didn’t vote because they were uninformed about the candidates.
“Unless Black voters are specifically targeted, not just passively but proactively, we find that Black voter participation can vary,” Garza said.
But in Georgia, voter suppression tactics were a key issue.
In Georgia, 41 percent of Black voters said they were asked to show identification before voting. Fifteen percent of Georgia’s Black voters also reported waiting in lines that were longer than usual, compared to only 3 percent in California.
“As we head into 2024, it’s really critical that we engage Black voters early and often,” said Garza. “Not three weeks before an election, but all year long. Any investment that we do make into Black voters will reap dividends come election time.”
The poll, conducted in December 2022, had an overall margin of error of ±2.8 percent and ±4.9% within each state.