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Key Takeaways for 2018 Midterms: African American Voters in Virginia 2017

 

A recording of today’s event is available here.

On a press call and webinar today, experts analyzed newly released Election Eve polling of the African American electorate in Virginia’s 2017 elections conducted by the African American Research Collaborative (AARC). The Black vote shifted significantly in the last 30 days before the Virginia election, resulting in strong Black turnout and overwhelming support for the eventual winners.

A recording of today’s event is available here. Polling information is available here.

Ray Block, African American Research Collaborative (AARC) and Political Science Professor, University of Kentucky, highlighted some of the key takeaways of the Election Eve poll:

Gillespie and the GOP’s divisive rhetoric concerning confederate monuments, Charlottesville aftermath, MS-13 gangs, and felon disenfranchisement led to a backlash at the polls:

  • African Americans turned out as 20% of all voters, apparently energized by racialized tone and opposition to Trump
  • Gillespie’s’ stance on confederate monuments made him much more unpopular with African American women (-70) and voters over 40 years old (-69)
  • 84% of African American voters found that Trump’s response in the aftermath of Charlottesville was not strong enough
  • Gillespie’s stance on MS-13 made African American voters, across all demographics, less enthusiastic about the candidate (-73)
  • African Americans turned out at 20% of all voters, corresponding to their portion of the electorate, apparently energized by racialized tone and direct opposition to Trump. 

According to Block:

In his article, “Black Voters, Blue Wave,” Jamelle Bouie described how Black voters can propel Democrats to electoral victories nationwide. As Bouie notes: “As Democrats order their priorities for the coming year, it’s in their best interest to put persuading and mobilizing black Americans at the top of the agenda.”

There are several upcoming Senate races where Black mobilization efforts need to be focused. For example, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin are states in which Black voters could potentially decide the outcome. Among these states, Alabama is the only one currently held by a Republican—and we are watching in real time how precarious the GOP control over that Senate race is as candidate Roy Moore fights to deflect multiple allegations. 

Tracey Meares, Professor of Criminal Justice, Yale Law School, said:

The poll results evaluating Trump’s response in the aftermath of Charlottesville, taken with the responses regarding felon disenfranchisement, show that African American voters increasingly understand the gross politicization of criminal justice issues in racial terms relevant to their identity. This issue likely is driving them to the voting booths.

Roger Vann, Executive Director, State Voices, said:

Virginia tells us that Black voters are prepared to participate at higher levels in 2018, if candidates are prepared to engage the community and take progressive stands on issues they care about.

Henry Fernandez, CEO, Fernandez Advisors, LLC, said:

When a candidate speaks to issues that matter to Black voters, this can boost their support and turnout. On the other hand, if a candidate criminalizes people of color, as Gillespie did with his ads on felony disenfranchisement and associating immigrants with violent gangs, he or she can expect a backlash from African American voters. This is an important lesson for 2018.

All candidates will need to figure out what to do about Trump.  He’s incredibly unpopular with Black voters – stunningly so.  Northam really used this well in the final weeks, sending a message that a vote for Gillespie was a vote for Trump.  This resonated powerfully with Black voters.  We should expect more of this in 2018.

The AARC is a collaborative of pollsters, scholars, researchers and commentators committed to bringing an accurate understanding of African American civic engagement to the public discourse. www.africanamericanresearch.us