New Survey Says: Politicians Don’t Care About Black People

Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

Tired of politicians talking at, about, but never to, black people, a bevy of organizations joined to conduct the largest survey of black people in the United States since Reconstruction, entitled More Black than Blue: Politics + Power in the 2019 Black Census.

The Black Census will be the first in a series of reports analyzing the responses of real, authentic on-the-ground African Americans—31,000, in fact. The report was conducted by the Black Futures Lab and published in partnership with Color of Change, Demos, Socioanalítica Research and more than 30 grassroots organizations; it outlines our views and also offers several policy recommendations, including new ideas based on survey responses.

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“Candidates at every level, and especially those running for President, are being advised to follow a playbook for reaching black voters that is ineffective, insincere and sometimes even embarrassing. The Black Census shows that the black electorate wants policies that improve our lives, not pandering photo ops at black institutions,” Alicia Garza, principal at the Black Futures Lab and co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said in a press release.

“The winning candidate in this crowded field will show that they care as much about ‘Black’ as they do about ‘Blue,’ by demanding policies that close the social, economic and political gaps that have left black people at the bottom when both Democrats and Republicans are in power,” Garza continued.

In addition to politics, key findings of the report touch on economic disparity and injustice including the fact that 90 percent of respondents say that low wages are “a problem,” including 85 percent who consider it a major problem; that more than three-quarters support increasing taxes on individuals earning $250,000 or more; and that early half (48 percent) report living in a household that lacked enough funds to pay a monthly bill in the last 12 months and 31 percent cut back on food to save money.

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The report also touched on criminal (in)justice, which disproportionately targets black communities and included these results:

  • 87 percent of respondents consider police officers killing Black people a problem in the community; additionally, 84 percent say that police officers not being held accountable for their crimes is a problem.
  • More than half (55 percent) of respondents have personally had a negative interaction with the police at some point, and 28 percent of those describing a negative encounter with police in the last 6 months.
  • 81 percent strongly support Black Lives Matter, which is about the same rating as former President Barack Obama.
  • 73 percent of Black Census respondents believe community-police relations can be improved if police are held accountable for their misconduct.
  • 84 percent support restoring voting rights of formerly incarcerated people while 63 percent strongly support it.
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Also, not surprisingly, black people are active and engaged in politics (with 73 percent of respondents report voting in 2016 and a third of respondents also report engaging in other electoral activity, i.e. fundraising, volunteering, and/or canvassing; most respondents (62 percent) have a favorable view of the Democratic Party (compared to just 6 percent with a favorable view of the Republican Party; though 20 percent also have an unfavorable view towards the Democratic Party) but most interestingly to this reporter is that: “Despite the notable level of electoral participation, 52 percent of respondents say politicians do not care about Black people and interests.”

The last fact shows that not much has changed since Kanye West went on one of his first political rants in September 2005.

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“A lot of things surprised me about the results, but one thing that was incredibly surprising but it may be obvious, is that politicians don’t care about black people,” Garza told The Root in a phone call Tuesday morning. “Given that the black community is one of the strongest parts of the Democratic party, it was concerning. And you would think that because we are highly engaged, that wouldn’t be the case, but there’s still a very strong feeling that politicians don’t care about the lives or the experiences of black communities.”

Garza said that Black Futures Lab has been in conversation with several campaigns, and is looking forward to continuing the conversation.

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Garza also noted in a Tuesday op-ed in the New York Times that they wanted to be sure to engage black people from all walks of life: “We talked with black people who live in cities and in rural areas; black people who were born in the United States and who migrated here; black people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual; black people who are transgender and gender-nonconforming; black people who are liberal and conservative; and black people who are currently and formerly incarcerated,” she wrote.

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Garza explained that survey conductors went to “barbershops and bars, prisons and professional gatherings to document the diverse, highly active network of Black people who share many policy priorities with Democrats, but have a clear vision for their future that runs even deeper.”

And it don’t stop.

More Black than Blue is the Black Census Project is the first of a series of reports. While it focuses on political engagement and economic and criminal justice issues, the second and third report will focus on gender, including the most pressing issues of the LGBTQ community and millennials.

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But first up, politics.

“We really hope that this report is something that campaigns pay attention to, there’s so much at stake in this political moment,” concludes Garza. “No candidate can afford to leave black communities behind.”

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Read the entire report (PDF) here.

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About the author

Angela Helm

Ms. Bronner Helm is a Contributing Editor at The Root. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.