A Black pollster’s report (complete with typographical errors) leaked to the New York Times indicates that Black America’s youngest voters, including those in Florida, aren’t feeling Hillary Clinton.
BY THE FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
As the Democratic Party continues to run its usual campaign playbook of using fear and hoping that anxiety and dread of a Donald Trump presidency will turn out Black voters, a new poll of young Black “millennial” voters is reminding Democrats once again that the Black vote cannot be taken for granted.
The “millennial generation” is loosely described as people born between 1980 and 2000 who would now be between 18 and 36 years old. More than 25 percent of Black Americans are between the ages of 18 and 34. Forty-four percent are older than 35, according to 2013 U.S. Census data.
A focus group study, including conversations with a group of young Black Barack Obama “surge voters” in Jacksonville, show little enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton.
“Surge voters” are described as people who voted for Obama in 2012, but for no one else on the ballot. They are credited with boosting Black voter turnout to a historical high, and are thought to be critically important if Clinton is to beat Trump in a race that is getting increasingly tighter even in “swing states” like Florida that have voted for both Republican and Democratic presidents over various campaign cycles.
The latest CNN “horse race” poll of likely voters nationwide shows Trump and Clinton start the race essentially even, with Trump ahead 45 percent to 43 percent; Libertarian Gary Johnson at 7 percent, and the Green Party’s Jill Stein at 2 percent.
In Florida, the latest Real Clear Politics poll has Clinton up by 2.1 percent.
Presented by former Democratic National Committee and Obama campaign pollster Cornell Belcher’s company called Brilliant Corners, the report was commissioned by and presented last month to representatives of unions and political action committees who are backing Democratic presidential nominee Clinton.
Belcher’s report was leaked to the New York Times “by another party strategist who wanted to draw attention to Mrs. Clinton’s difficulties in hopes that the campaign would move more aggressively to address the matter,” according to a front-page article appearing in the newspaper on Sept. 5.
Florida is important because all of its 29 electoral votes go to whoever wins the presidential general election. That’s more than 10 percent of the 270 electoral votes necessary to elect the next president.
No Obama-style turnout?
Belcher’s research indicates that as of July, Clinton is underperforming in Florida among young Black female Democratic voters by 12 percent when compared to Obama’s 2012 voter totals, and by 16 percent among young Black male Democratic voters.
The report also indicates that young Black voters start out in “different places” during the 2016 presidential election cycle, and generally in one of three categories:
•Pessimists who are jaded by the political system and who do not think voting matters. Such voters refer to voter disenfranchisement and voting irregularities, particularly to the 2000 Florida presidential recount that elected George W. Bush. Some were Bernie Sanders supporters or sympathizers who believe that “the deck was stacked against him” in the primary against Hillary Clinton.
•Cynics who believe that both Trump and Clinton are bad for the Black community, but that neither is worse than the other. These voters are reluctant to vote for “the better of two evils,” and are prepared to not vote at all.
•Pragmatists who are willing to vote for Clinton just to stop Trump. They are not excited about voting, and lack of enthusiasm “could suppress their turnout,” according to the report.
Second lackluster poll
According to the New York Times, this is the second poll of Black voters Belcher’s company has conducted that show Clinton lagging well behind Obama’s 2012 Black voting benchmark in crucial states like Florida and Ohio.
“There is no Democratic majority without these voters,” Belcher is quoted as saying. “The danger is that if you don’t get these voters out, you’ve got the 2004 John Kerry electorate again.”
According to Roper Center Public Opinion research, Kerry got 88 percent of the Black vote, but still lost the presidential election to George W. Bush, partly because of relatively low Black voter turnout nationwide, and particularly in swing states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
Belcher’s report lays out methods Democrats should consider using to turn Black millennials in Clinton’s direction.
•Educate pessimists on “the power of voting.” According to the report, “Educating voters on the power of their vote in an aspirational way will help them overcome the barriers of pessimism. They must be convinced that their vote has real world impacts.”
Belcher argues that pessimists must be reminded that they helped elect Obama in 2008 and 2012 – “You Did That!” – despite doubts that there would ever be a Black president in America.
•“Make Trump’s racism real” to cynics. “Exposing voters to the (severe) consequences of a Trump presidency would have on the Black community creates clear contrast between Trump and Hillary and enforces the urgency to vote,” the report states. “Consequences of Trump Presidency: perpetuate police/White violence against Blacks, neglect poor people, repeal Obamacare. Tying Trump to violence against Black bodies (this language is important) is also very compelling.”
•For pragmatists, “make Hillary Clinton the vehicle for (a) community centric agenda.” According to the report, “there are a celestial of issues that move Black voters toward higher turnout, positioning (Clinton) as the means by which they achieve their issue objectives is the final stage to increase voter participation. Criminal justice is a compelling issue, (Clinton) has strong policy prescriptions but they are not well communicated. Other issues include economic justice and family social values issues.”
How to communicate
The focus groups also reviewed some of the Clinton campaign’s print and video ads, and gauged the reaction. The top-rated, most effective ads for Black millennials were those that included materials about Black Lives Matter, police brutality, militarized policing, and racial justice.
The ones that were less effective included ads critical of Trump.
Belcher concludes the report by giving Democrats specific directions to “explore and quantify the most powerful narrative around the issues of criminal justice and fighting racism; explore language that reinforce the individual and collective power of voting; explore language that describe explicit consequences for the Black community if Donald Trump becomes president.”
It ends with a question: “Who are the best messengers to carry these messages to target audiences?”
‘Hold our vote’
Not long after the Belcher report was made public, New York-based entrepreneur and occasional rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs said it’s time for Clinton to change course.
“Hillary Clinton, you know, I hope she starts to talk directly to the Black community. It really makes me feel, you know, almost hurt that our issues are not addressed and we’re such a big part of the voting bloc,” Combs told the Rev. Al Sharpton on his Saturday MSNBC show.
“The heat has to be turned up so much that as a community, we’ve got to hold our vote. Don’t pacify yourself; really revolutionize the game. Make them come for our vote. It’s a whole different strategy, but I think we need to hold our vote because I don’t believe any of them.”
Obama a disappointment
Combs also said Obama didn’t live up to expectations.
“My number one thing, to be honest, is Black people. I feel like we put President Obama in the White House. When I look back, I just wanted more done for my people because that’s the name of the game,” he said.
“This is politics. You put somebody in office, you get in return the things that you care about for your communities. I think we got a little bit shortchanged. That’s not knocking the president…He’s done an excellent job…but I think it’s time to turn up the heat because the Black vote is going to decide who is the next president of the United States.”
Information from the New York Times and CNN was used to prepare this report.