Gun control legislation, white supremacy and economy top priorities for Black voters, according to poll
Black Americans want the Biden administration to address gun violence and declare white supremacist violence a national security threat, according to new polling released Wednesday and shared exclusively with USA TODAY.
In the aftermath of last year's midterm elections cycle, Black to the Future Action Fund and HIT Strategies polled 1,200 Black voters in Georgia, North Carolina and California.
Black voters are the most loyal voting bloc for Democrats and will once again be crucial for the party to maintain control of the White House in 2024. The survey results can help candidates and parties understand what motivated these Americans to vote or, in some cases, to stay home.
What were the top concerns?
The top concern for Black voters during the midterms was inflation, at 25%, and then jobs and the economy, at 23%. The third priorites were abortion access, crime and gun violence, and discrimination and race all tied at 22%.
Yet 44% of participants said they wanted gun control legislation enacted. And 42% said they wanted white supremacy declared a national security threat.
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Those calls for action came before the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols earlier this year, which reignited political pressure on the Biden administration.
"I do think that the Biden/Harris administration is making progress on gun control specifically. On police violence, not really," said Alicia Garza, principal of Black to the Future Action Fund. "And some of that is an issue of who's in Congress. But some of it is also an issue of political pressure."
More action on the economy
Black voters also said they wanted more action on financial topics; 42% said they want the minimum wage increased to $15 an hour and 40% said they wanted affordable housing, the poll showed.
In Georgia and North Carolina, support for increasing the minimum wage to $15 was most popular at 46% and 45%, respectively.
Like many other Democratic constituents, 32% of Black voters want $50,000 of student debt canceled. They also wanted housing vouchers for low-income families that cap rent at 30% of income.
Police and safety
Nearly half of Black voters, 47%, said they felt unsafe in the U.S. More than half of Black women, 54%, said they felt unsafe, and 36% of Black men said the same. And 51% of Black voters said they feared becoming a hate crime victim.
As debates about crime roil major U.S. cities, 35% said they want to shift funding for police to preventative measures like mental health support and social work. Only 20% of those polled said they wanted to increase police funding to reduce crime.
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On white supremacy, 47% said they wanted extremists removed from federal, local and state police departments, and 38% said anyone who committed a hate crime should be banned from gun purchases.
Messaging problems for Biden
Terrance Woodbury, founding partner and chief executive officer of HIT Strategies, said Democrats will have to champion economic and social issues to Black voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
"Democrats cannot decide between addressing economic issues and social issues. They cannot make a forced choice between issues of identity and issues of economy, because for Black voters, they're inseparable," Woodbury said.
They'll also have to adjust how they interact with voters .
Nearly 80% of Black voters said they saw television ads from Democrats or liberal organizations last year. Yet the same percentage of Black voters said no Democrats or liberal organizations knocked on their door.
Meanwhile, 77% of those polled saw an ad from Republicans or conservative organizations, and 84% said no Republicans or conservative organizations knocked on their door.
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"This is very much so a messaging problem that the White House is having more than a governing problem," Woodbury said. "When we give Black voters a list of policies that they want to see this administration prioritize, (Biden) has done or achieved more than 80% of it, especially on addressing racism and white supremacy."
Why some Black voters didn't show up to vote
Of the Black voters surveyed, 18% said they did not vote last year. In North Carolina, Georgia and California, the percentages of people who didn't vote were 22%, 14% and 18%, respectively.
North Carolina Democratic senatorial nominee Cheri Beasely lost her election to then-GOP Rep. Ted Budd by less than 4 percentage points.
Of the Black voters who didn't vote in 2022, 42% said they were not informed about the candidates. In California, 56% of those who didn't vote said they were uninformed about the candidates, as did 35% of Black voters in Georgia who didn't vote.
Georgia featured several high-profile races last year, including Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock's reelection bid against Republican Herschel Walker and Gov. Brian Kemp's rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams. The incumbents won both races.
LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, a Georgia-based civic engagement group, said the disconnect with Black voters stems from campaigns focusing on white voters to the detriment of Black Americans.
Another piece of disconnect is not just how campaigns engage with Black voters but who does the engagement.
"Because of how the media has systematically excluded us, excluded our voices, excluded our images, we have over the years, over centuries, we've actually created our own methods of communication," Brown said.
Beauty shops, churches, barbershops and even TikTok are ways to reach Black voters across different generations.
"You got to have some real validators, and the validators are not, contrary to popular belief, they're not the celebrities," Brown said. "We don't listen to celebrities like that. That's not what we do, because there's not a trusted source."
The survey was done in December and has a 2.8% margin of error of the full sample and a 4.8% margin of error in each state.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Poll: economy, gun violence among top issues for Black voters