Comments on Black Political Engagement in 2016 by Dr. Sharon Austin

Published: February 24th, 2016

Category: News

2016’s States with the Highest Political Engagement Among Blacks

by Richie Bernardo

Where are Blacks Most Least Politically Engaged

Black votes matter. In both 2008 and 2012, black voters turned out at the polls at unprecedented numbers, helping to secure the election and reelection of the first black president in the Oval Office. Barack Obama owed much of his triumphant White House bid to this demographic, granting him more than 90 percent of their vote during each election cycle and even outvoting whites for the first time in 2012.

This year, black voters will account for more than 12 percent of the national electorate, but whether they’ll repeat history remains an unpredictable outcome. After all, Americans today are deeply divided along racial lines, and current presidential hopefuls have yet to deliver a message that resonates with black voters. There is no black candidate on the Democratic side this time, and the only one in the GOP has already fallen behind his fellow party contenders. But the problem of black underrepresentation isn’t exclusive to the presidential race. It trickles down to state and localgovernments, as Ferguson, Mo., made abundantly clear in 2014.

What’s certain, however, is that black Americans are more inclined in some states than in others to fulfill their civic duty by participating in the democratic process. And though various theories attempt to rationalize trends in blacks’ voting behaviors, simply identifying where on the map this group is most politically active — and therefore likely to maximize its electoral clout — helps to put this election year and racial-gap issues into context.

In honor of Black History Month and with presidential primaries in full swing, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 48 states across six key metrics that speak to the level of black political engagement. Our data set includes black voter turnout and registration during the most recent presidential and midterm elections as well as the proportional representation of blacks in the state legislature and national party conventions. Scroll down for the complete ranking, expert political commentary and our detailed methodology.

Main Findings

114848

 

Overall Rank

State

Total Score

Overall Rank

State

Total Score

1 Wisconsin 75.18 25 Delaware 48.93
2 Ohio 74.17 26 Maine 47.62
3 Mississippi 73.95 27 Vermont 47.14
4 Michigan 73.07 28 Oregon 47.11
5 Missouri 72.98 29 Hawaii 46.91
6 North Carolina 72.58 30 Nevada 46.36
7 New Jersey 71.74 31 New Hampshire 46.11
8 Maryland 71.60 32 Iowa 46.05
9 Texas 70.08 33 Kansas 45.97
10 Illinois 69.90 34 Colorado 45.79
11 Indiana 68.73 35 Connecticut 44.99
12 New York 68.29 36 Massachusetts 44.40
13 Georgia 66.97 37 Arkansas 44.19
14 California 66.60 38 New Mexico 44.16
15 Louisiana 65.94 39 Rhode Island 44.15
16 Minnesota 65.36 40 Oklahoma 42.29
17 South Carolina 63.82 41 Washington 42.11
18 Florida 63.47 42 Arizona 41.93
19 Utah 62.50 43 Tennessee 39.51
20 Alabama 62.19 44 North Dakota 38.89
21 Pennsylvania 59.07 45 South Dakota 37.14
22 Virginia 53.95 46 Alaska 36.30
23 Nebraska 49.69 47 West Virginia 36.26
24 Kentucky 49.58 48 Wyoming 35.80

 

Artwork-Where-are-Blacks-Most-&-Least-Politically-Engaged

Red States vs. Blue States

States-with-the-Highest-Political-Engagement-Among-Blacks-Blue-vs-Red-Image

 

Political Engagement vs. Voter Eligibility

Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Vot…MixedLeast Politically Engaged & Strictest Voter I…CAALAKAZARCOCTDEFLGAHIILINIAKSKYLAMEMDMAMIMNMSMONENVNHNJNMNYNCNDOHOKORPARISCSDTNTXUTVTVAWAWVWIWY0153045600.012.525.037.550.0Political Engagement RankingVoter ID Requrements Ranking

State Political Engagement Ranking Voter ID Requrements Ranking .
CA 14 1 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
AL 20 33 Mixed
AK 46 19 Mixed
AZ 42 41 Least Politically Engaged & Strictest Voter ID Requirements
AR 37 19 Mixed
CO 34 19 Mixed
CT 35 19 Mixed
DE 25 19 Mixed
FL 18 33 Mixed
GA 13 43 Mixed
HI 29 33 Least Politically Engaged & Strictest Voter ID Requirements
IL 10 1 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
IN 11 43 Mixed
IA 32 1 Mixed
KS 33 43 Least Politically Engaged & Strictest Voter ID Requirements
KY 24 19 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
LA 15 33 Mixed
ME 26 1 Mixed
MD 8 1 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
MA 36 1 Mixed
MI 4 33 Mixed
MN 16 1 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
MS 3 43 Mixed
MO 5 19 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
NE 23 1 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
NV 30 1 Mixed
NH 31 19 Mixed
NJ 7 1 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
NM 38 1 Mixed
NY 12 1 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
NC 6 19 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
ND 44 43 Least Politically Engaged & Strictest Voter ID Requirements
OH 2 41 Mixed
OK 40 19 Mixed
OR 28 1 Mixed
PA 21 1 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
RI 39 33 Least Politically Engaged & Strictest Voter ID Requirements
SC 17 19 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
SD 45 33 Least Politically Engaged & Strictest Voter ID Requirements
TN 43 43 Least Politically Engaged & Strictest Voter ID Requirements
TX 9 43 Mixed
UT 19 19 Most Politically Engaged & Most Lenient Voter ID Requirements
VT 27 1 Mixed
VA 22 43 Mixed
WA 41 19 Mixed
WV 47 1 Mixed
WI 1 43 Mixed
WY 48 1 Mixed

 

Ask the Experts

Although the black voter-turnout rate in presidential elections has been rising since 1996, it remains lower in certain areas compared with others. In order to understand the reasons behind the low turnout and to find solutions to voting roadblocks for racial minorities, we turned to a panel of experts in fields such as political science and African-American studies. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. What accounts for low levels of voter turnout among blacks?
  2. Do voter-ID laws disproportionately affect voter turnout for blacks relative to other groups?
  3. Why are blacks and other minorities underrepresented in political office? For example, there are currently only two black senators and there have only been four black governors in U.S. history.
  4. What strategies have proven effective in increasing voter participation and civic engagement among blacks?

Back to All Experts

Saladin Ambar

Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Lehigh University
Saladin Ambar

What accounts for low levels of voter turnout among African Americans?

African Americans fall disproportionately within lower income brackets, making the time, resources, and networks needed to participate in our political system harder to come by. There have also been not-so-subtle efforts in recent years (and of course, historically) to minimize the black vote. Recent efforts to create additional hurdles in voter identification requirements and the elimination or curtailing of same day registration and early voting provisions, have also hurt. That said, as the 2012 presidential election showed, the black vote in the US can still be quite formidable.

Do voter ID laws disproportionately affect voter turnout for African Americans relative to other groups?

Yes. But the poor and elderly are also disproportionately affected. It is hard to measure a negative – how many more African American voters would there be, absent these restrictions? But it is safe to say that the laws are doing what they intended to do: creating fewer voters from this constituency.

Why are blacks and other minorities underrepresented in political office? For example there are currently only 2 African American senators and there have only been 4 black governors in U.S. history.

Some of this has to do with our political culture and history of disenfranchisement. But there is also something to be said for a system that doesn’t recruit or encourage participation at the local levels that feed higher offices. It is hard to produce senators without legislators and so on. There is also the additional hurdle black and Latino candidates have that white candidates have not encountered – and that is, having to sublimate their racial or ethnic identity in order to win over votes from other groups (i.e., whites). This is but the tip of the iceberg in a long and complicated story.

Back to All Experts

Sharon D. Wright Austin

Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of African American Studies at University of Florida
Sharon D. Wright Austin

What accounts for low levels of voter turnout among African Americans?

Actually, the turnout for African Americans isn’t low in national elections. Usually, it’s lower in mid-term elections because many African Americans have said that candidates have not actively reached out to them for their votes.

Do voter ID laws disproportionately affect voter turnout for African Americans relative to other groups?

There is no evidence of this (as far as scholarly studies are concerned). African Americans are more disadvantaged by the elimination of early voting sites than by voter ID laws.

Why are blacks and other minorities underrepresented in political office? For example there are currently only 2 African American senators and there have only been 4 black governors in U.S. history.

The main reason is the lack of fiscal resources. Minority and female candidates have difficulty finding the funds to run for citywide (at-large) and statewide offices. That is one reason why most African Americans serve in district offices rather than citywide and statewide offices.

What strategies have proven effective in increasing voter participation and civic engagement among African-Americans?

The mobilization of college students on college campuses. During the 2008 and 2012 elections, the Obama campaign was very effective in registering college students. Also, voter registration drives at nursing homes and other places inhabited or visited by elderly people. In addition, door to door campaigns have been effective in getting people out. Social media is playing a greater role in increasing the participation of youths of all races.

Back to All Experts

Dylan Rodríguez

Professor and Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies at University of California, Riverside
Dylan Rodríguez

What accounts for low levels of voter turnout among African Americans?

This is a complicated question with complicated, historically rooted answers! The long legacy of American apartheid segregation has created an electoral system that remains stubbornly racist in both its implementation and outcomes — from gerrymandering to the disenfranchisement of people with criminal convictions (which has focused primarily on disenfranchising *African Americans* with criminal convictions), it is clear that the stubbornly institutionalized hyper-policing, racist criminalization, and structural impoverishment of Black populations across the US continue to make a fraud of any pretensions that the American electoral system is even remotely reflective of democratic (much less reparative and anti-racist) principles.

Do voter ID laws disproportionately affect voter turnout for African Americans relative to other groups?

Yes, this is the case both historically and currently. Voter ID laws were essentially created for the purposes of strengthening US racial apartheid in government and elections.

Why are blacks and other minorities underrepresented in political office? For example there are currently only 2 African American senators and there have only been 4 black governors in U.S. history.

First, we need to shift our language away from one that uses the term “minorities” in such a way — it’s overly parochial and in many geographies, completely inaccurate in describing demographies, power relationships, etc. Let’s be specific about which populations we’re talking about when we are raising the issue of underrepresentation in political office! This is another complicated and layered question with deep answers. Let’s just put it this way: when election to political office is rooted in the renaissance of white supremacy that took place in the aftermath of the US Reconstruction period (latter 19th and early 20th centuries), and in fact directly involves the US state’s *sanction and condoning* of racist violence against Black and other candidates of color (and their supporters) as a primary method of securing white supremacist governance, it should be no surprise that the demography of elected officials has largely reflected the logics of American racial nation-building.

What strategies have proven effective in increasing voter participation and civic engagement among African-Americans?

Instituting clear possibilities for self-determination and autonomy at the local level!

Methodology

In order to determine where black Americans are most politically engaged, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 48 states across six key metrics. Idaho and Montana were not included in the sample due to data limitations. The metrics are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was given a value between 0 and 100, wherein 100 is the best value for that metric and 0 is the worst.

We then calculated the overall score for each state using the weighted average across all metrics and ranked them accordingly.

  • Black Voter Turnout (2012 Presidential Election): Double Weight (~22.22 Points)
  • Black Voter Turnout (2014 Midterm Elections): Double Weight (~22.22 Points)
  • Black Voter Registration (2012 Presidential Election): Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
  • Black Voter Registration (2014 Midterm Elections): Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
  • Proportional Representation of Blacks in State Legislature (measures the percentage of black representatives per black population): Double Weight (~22.22 Points)
  • Proportional Representation of Blacks in National Party Conventions (measures the percentage of black delegates at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions per black population): Full Weight (~11.11 Points)

 

Sources: Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and History, Art & Archives – United States House of Representatives.

 

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