Young Voters of Color Concerned About Black Lives

Five days from the 2018 midterm elections, a coalition of social justice and racial equity organizations presented their research on young voters of color, and the issues that matter most to them. In the findings, racism and racial justice were the chief issues driving 18-to-24 year-olds of color to the polls, with nearly half of respondents identifying it as the first of their top four reasons to vote.

“We’re very excited about this data and very excited about this partnership,” Sheila E. Isong, NAACP national political director for civic engagement, said on a panel convened to discuss the data. “We’re using that to translate to direct voter engagement. We’re hoping it actually gets folks out to the polls.”

The Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is a partnership of 12 leading national organizations dedicated to racial equity and racial healing. For this research, a sample size of 1,325 young voters of color across the country – 30 percent African Americans, 32 percent Latinx, 30 percent Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and 22 percent Native Americans – were surveyed via phone and internet in September. The Anchor Collaborative will package and release the data to the public in the near future.

For the second-most motivating reason to vote, 42 percent selected “supporting candidates who will work to end police mistreatment of people of color,” ranking it above supporting campaigns for free college.

“In some ways this cohort has seen an incredible set of contrasts. For all of us, one of the charges is that people continue to see the voting process as important,” said Clarissa Martínez-de-Castro, deputy vice president of policy and advocacy at UnidosUS, a Collaborative member. “We want to make sure people hold accountable their institutions, their government, their corporations, and not tune out of the process.”

The data comes in the home stretch of the NAACP’s four-month, national grassroots effort to get out the vote, with special emphasis on Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The youth-led and youth-targeted arm of the campaign includes rallies, voter drives and other events on college campuses, as well as directly informing and assisting young voters via text. Organizers are also testing new strategies for reaching infrequent or disengaged Black voters of all ages. The NAACP is also building a data analytics hub to be shared with the other Anchor Collaborative members.

“When we look at the data…we’re talking about racial justice, we’re talking about police brutality,” Isong explained. “When we talk about what’s motivating young people to get out there, and to protest and get more involved…[it’s] the deaths of young Black men and young Black women. [The NAACP is] telling our people to vote because their lives depend on it. It’s not just a catchphrase; it’s not just a slogan. It’s literal.”

— Jazelle Hunt

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