‘More Black Than Blue,’ the first report of the 2019 ‘Black Census,’ reveals winning path for 2020 presidential hopefuls

Glen Taylor of the Chicago-based group Equity and Transformation practiced conducting surveys last year in Atlanta as part of the Black Census Project. – Photo: Derica Wilson

Black activists and Democratic campaigns both challenged to rethink approach to campaign issues and strategy

by Christopher Collins-McNeil and Andre Banks

New York – On May 28, the Black Futures Lab released “More Black than Blue: Politics + Power in the 2019 Black Census,” the first in a series of reports analyzing the largest survey of Black people conducted in the United States since Reconstruction. The report was published in partnership with Color of Change, Demos and Socioanalítica Research.

The Black Census Project launched in early 2018 with an ambitious agenda to poll tens of thousands of Black people on their political beliefs, frustrations and aspirations. The Black Census provides much needed insight for advocates, activists and candidates hoping to understand the diverse and varied needs of the Black community.

The report showed that respondents were strongly aligned with key Democratic policy priorities like closing significant gaps in quality of life through a living wage, quality public education and healthcare. But the findings also caution that alignment does not translate to immediate, energetic support for the party or its candidates.

“No Democratic candidate will win the White House without an engaged national movement of Black voters. More than half of Black Census respondents saying politicians do not care about Black people and their interests is a major problem for the party and for the country,” said Alicia Garza, principal at the Black Futures Lab and co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

“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 want policies that improve our lives, not pandering photo ops at Black institutions.”

“We 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. 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.”

Conducted through an innovative research methodology that allowed the project to reach deeper into the Black community than standard probabilistic studies, the Black Census was supported by both national and grassroots organizations across the country, driving respondents to participate in the Census online and on the street. More than 30 organizations in 28 states partnered with Black Futures Lab to conduct the Black Census.

The result is a powerful representation of the Black community, featuring voices often lost to traditional survey methodologies, including homeless, the currently and formerly incarcerated, LGBTQ people, Black conservatives, Black immigrants and mixed race people with a Black parent. The Black Census respondents are younger, more likely to be female and more likely to identify as LGBTQ than the Black population as a whole.

“For far too long, Black voters in this country have been marginalized, misrepresented and taken for granted in electoral politics. As the largest survey of Black people conducted in the United States since Reconstruction, the Black Census has the potential to revolutionize voter engagement and radically change how politicians meet the needs of voters in the Black community,” said Sabeel Rahman, president of Demos. “The Black Census has unearthed timely and relevant truths about the power of the Black vote and will hopefully unlock a bolder, responsive and much more inclusive democracy.”

The Black Futures Lab is leveraging findings of the Black Census to build a national legislative platform to inform and inspire candidates up and down the ballot to build platforms and campaigns that represent the real interests of Black voters.

“Engaging Black voters and communities in a meaningful way isn’t about words, but action. Far too often, candidates come to our communities focused on the promises they will make without the steps to back them up.” said Rashad Robinson, president of the nation’s online racial justice organization, Color of Change.

“This important work done by the Black Futures Lab provides a road map to any candidate interested in moving beyond rhetoric toward dealing with the issues that have held so many back. Meaningful change for Black people and our communities will come through clear and focused interventions, and this groundbreaking survey provides those who are interested with important next steps.”

The Black Census Project’s first edition, “More Black than Blue,” is the first of a series of reports from the 2019 Black Census. More Black than Blue focuses on political engagement, economic and criminal justice issues, while the second and third reports will focus on the most pressing issues among the LGBT community and millennials. The Black Census project will also develop policy recommendations related to the findings of Black LGBT and millennial communities.

Key findings

The Black Census Project surveyed 30,000 Black people in 28 states in partnership with more than 30 grassroots organizations serving Black communities nationwide. The survey and overall report reveal the diversity of opinion and experience among Black people, reflecting a high level of political engagement and interest across multiple platforms. The survey addressed the most pressing economic, political, civic and criminal justice issues among Black Census respondents, with a focus on political and electoral engagement.

Economic justice

Low wages are considered the most pressing among Black Census respondents, with 90 percent viewing it as a problem, including 85 percent who consider it a major problem.

More than three quarters of people support increasing taxes on individuals earning $250,000 or more.

Nearly 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.

Political and civic engagement

Seventy-three percent of respondents report voting in 2016 and a third (34 percent) of respondents also report engaging in other electoral activity, such as fundraising, volunteering or canvassing.

Despite the notable level of electoral participation, 52 percent of respondents say, “Politicians do not care about Black people and interests.”

Sixty-two percent of Black Census respondents have a favorable view of the Democratic Party (compared to just 6 percent with a favorable view of the Republican Party), but a fifth of respondents have an unfavorable view towards the Democratic Party.

Criminal justice

Eighty-seven 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 personally have had a negative interaction with the police at some point, and 28 percent of those described a negative encounter with police in the last six months.

Eighty-one percent strongly support Black Lives Matter, which is about the same rating as for former President Barack Obama.

Seventy-three percent of Black Census respondents believe community-police relations can be improved if police are held accountable for their misconduct.

Eighty-four percent support restoring voting rights of formerly incarcerated people while 63 percent strongly support it.

The Black Futures Lab’s “More Black than Blue: Politics and Power in the 2019 Black Census” can be found in full here.

About The Black Futures Lab

The Black Futures Lab transforms Black communities into active, interdependent, responsive public partners that change the way power operates – at the local, state and national levels. The Black Futures Lab partnered with Color of Change, Demos and Socioanalítica Research to develop The Black Census Project.

About Color of Change

Color of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. We help people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by more than 1.4 million members, we move decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America.

About Demos

Demos is a dynamic think-and-do tank that powers the movement for a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy. Through cutting-edge policy research, inspiring litigation and deep relationships with grassroots organizations, Demos champions solutions that will create a democracy and economy rooted in racial equity.

About Socioanalítica Research

Socioanalítica Research is a bilingual consulting firm helping progressive organizations and businesses with quantitative and qualitative research design, methods and analysis. Socioanalítica Research designs high quality research products that are simple in their execution yet powerful in their content and analysis.

Christopher Collins-McNeil can be reached at christopher@abpartners.co and Andre Banks at andre@abpartners.co.