A new pre-election poll of African-American likely voters shows that despite a lack of enthusiasm about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, Blacks feel that the upcoming election is too important to miss.
On Friday, the non-partisan African American Research Collaborative, an initiative hosted by State Voices, a civic engagement network comprised of political pollsters, researchers and scholars, released its 2016 African American Voter Poll, which examined attitudes of Blacks who planned on casting a ballot in the 2016 presidential election.
Conducted between Oct. 25 and Nov. 2, the poll took data from 300 completed surveys from a national sample of 1,200 Black voters, and also 300 completed surveys from respondents in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percentage points.
The findings show a lack of enthusiasm about the election in the national sample with half of respondents saying they did not like either candidate and significant numbers in each of the states surveyed saying they were more enthusiastic in 2012 than they are this year.
But in all categories, respondents also emphasized that it is even more important to vote in 2016 than it was in 2012 with 56 percent of the national sample responding affirmatively and 62 percent in Georgia, 67 percent in Nevada and 70 percent in Pennsylvania responding the same way.
“The high level of dissatisfaction and lower enthusiasm is not turning people away from the polls,” said Roger Vann executive director of State Voices during a press call over the results of the survey. “Despite a lot of reasons why some other groups might choose to sit this out, African-Americans are dedicated to engaging their own franchise.”
Among other findings of the survey, Black voters show that many display a distrust in government with 62 percent saying it can be trusted to do what is right “only sometimes,” and 51 percent say the same about government ensuring racial equality.
The demonstrations against police violence have also had an impact on Black voter outlook, according to the survey. In the national sample, 51 percent said protesting is at least as important as voting. A similar number of respondents in Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania gave the same answers.
But they also showed concern about disfranchisement at the polls, with more than 70 percent saying that voter ID laws weaken the Black vote.
Interestingly enough, there was also a significant interest among voters about who delivered a political message in encouraging them to get to the polls.
In the national sample, respondents scored Michelle Obama at the top of their list of people they trusted as a messenger, with President Obama second and the Black Lives Matter movement third.
In the two spaces at the bottom of that list, were Black athletes, celebrities and entertainers and the Black clergy, which had once been the most depended upon entity to spread political messages. That group scored lowest among all demographics.
“It’s probably based on many African-Americans disengaging from participation in church,” said Vann. “It’s just a national trend that African Americans are not immune to. Also 50-60 years ago, the Black church was the center of all activity. The church remains a central hub of activity and drives opinion and action in the community, but there are certainly other way of choosing to engage.”
Whether or not the way the respondents to the survey answered questions and how they choose to vote on Election Day remains to be seen. Janay Cody, senior research manager at the Analyst Institute said that it is important to wait to see the outcome of the election before any concrete determinations can be made about Black voter behavior.
“It’s very clear they recognized the importance of this election and what’s at stake,” said Cody, senior research manager at the Analyst Institute. “There are a variety of reasons why African-Americans may or may not participate so we don’t want to give a prematurely definitive conclusion.”
Click here to find out more about the African American Research Collaborative.
Madison J. Gray is Digital Managing Editor of EBONY.com and JETMag.com. Follow him on Twitter @madisonjgray.