Priorities USA and Color of Change Release Messaging Guidelines and Results of Research on Political Engagement among African-American Millennials

January 18, 2018

January 18, 2018

Priorities USA and Color of Change Release Messaging Guidelines and Results of Research on Political Engagement among African-American Millennials

Washington — Today, Priorities USA and Color of Change are releasing the findings of a research project designed to inform Democrats’ outreach and mobilization of African-American millennials. Recognizing the need for progressives to better understand and engage African-American millennials in order to be successful in future elections, Priorities and Color of Change conducted a nationwide survey and series of focus groups this past fall designed to gather insights on turnout targets within the community, including hard to reach, infrequent and unregistered voters.

The research’s findings indicate that young African-Americans have a deep level of animosity towards Donald Trump and the Republican agenda but a low level of enthusiasm about political engagement. To that end, Priorities and Color of Change suggest the following messaging tactics for progressives going forward:

  • Initial Engagement: Our strongest messages focus on issues specific to the African-American community, chiefly systemic police violence and mass incarceration. Young African-American drop-off and unregistered voters said that these messages most motivated them to become more involved politically. It is important for progressives to approach this engagement not only through a policy lens but also within the context of culture.
  • Positive Agenda: Young African-Americans need to know that Democratic candidates have a real plan for addressing the issues they care about most—good-paying jobs and lowering the cost of health care—and that this agenda is specifically tailored to help minorities, young people and people living in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
  • Call to Action: African-American millennials are acutely aware that their community is under attack. Thus, the idea of voting as a deterrent against those negative forces proves resonant, especially when underscored by a sense of urgency that now more than ever is the time for people like them to get engaged with politics.
  • Where to Reach Them: Facebook is the major platform young African-American mobilization targets use to stay informed. When asked which news sources they use most often to get news, more than half chose Facebook. To a lesser extent, they stay up-to-date with cable news and local news.

The need for Democrats to refine their messaging and make a large-scale effort to reach these potential voters is bolstered by a number of notable findings from the research project. These include:

  • Young African-American drop-off voters are quite downbeat about how things are going in the country. 92% believe that racism is a big problem in the country today and 66% say racism affects them a great deal or a fair amount in their own personal lives.
  • More than three-quarters agree with the statement that “politicians running for office don’t usually talk about the issues that are important to the African-American community.”
  • More than 7 in 10 agree with the statements that “no matter who wins an election, very little in my life or in my community ever seems to change” and “no matter who is in office, it seems like the system is broken and does not work for people like me.”
  • Those who are more politically motivated and engaged are also much more likely to feel the Democratic Party is for people like them—suggesting that improving these numbers will be critical in order to increase turnout among this important constituency.

“If we want to defeat Donald Trump and the Republicans’ disastrous agenda and build a country that stands up for opportunity and justice for all, we can’t take a single vote for granted,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA. “Young African-Americans are critical to the success of the Democratic Party, and our research makes clear how much more work we have to do to engage them in the political process. In order to win in 2018 and 2020, Democrats must commit to a bold and ambitious agenda that lifts up communities of color and that candidates can run on proudly in races across the country.”

“Although Black voters remain the single most loyal progressive voting bloc in the country, this research makes clear that there is so much more work to do to ensure that the concerns of African-American millennials are reflected in the political platforms of candidates running for offices across the country,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color of Change. “Consistent with Color of Change PAC’s approach to everyday civic engagement, the research reveals that despite having every reason to be disenchanted with politics and the political process, Black millennials remain aspirational and committed to empowering their families and communities. Far from single-issue voters, African-American millennials desire solutions to problems that range from income inequality and discrimination to a failed system of mass incarceration.”

To read Priorities USA and Color of Change’s memo in full, click here.