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Black Women Voters Are Key to the 2020 Presidential Race. Here’s Who They Support

September 12, 2019, 2:24 PM UTC

Amid studies showing black women will be key to next year’s White House race comes a new poll that shows this group of Americans is veering off from the status quo logged by other voters.

While polls so far show the Democratic race right now is largely between former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a newly released survey of nearly 1,100 black women shows this group is supporting Biden, followed by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and then by Warren and Sanders.

The numbers are from the annual survey of black women voters by the Black Women’s Roundtable of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Essence news organization. Those behind the poll first conducted in 2015 expect it will get the attention of the Democratic Party and the candidates with its formal release this week at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Meeting in Washington, D.C. The yearly gathering is a mix of elected officials, non-profit groups, candidates, engaged voters, think tank scholars and, sometimes, the president.

The poll showed that black women are not thinking along the same lines as America as a whole, and younger black women are thinking even more independently.

Younger black women in the 2019 BWR Essence Survey said they would support Sanders, followed by Harris, Warren, and then Biden.

The poll showed black women are highly engaged in politics, too. About 95% of those surveyed said they plan to vote in the presidential race next year and 97% are registered to vote.

Older black women seem to see voting as a personal responsibility and they tie it to the violence of the Civil Rights Movement and activists who died or suffered so they could vote, Elsie Scott, a member of the Black Women’s Roundtable and secretary of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said during a conference call Tuesday to roll out the poll to reporters.

Scott added that she was surprised to see that 26% of the women surveyed said they hadn’t yet picked a candidate.

Only 1% trust the Republican Party, but trust in the Democratic Party has been declining or remained flat, according to the poll.

Seventy-three percent of black women identified as Democrat while the remainder identified as Republican, Independent or indicated no affiliation. Among black women 25 to 35, one-third said no party represents them and only 45% said they identified with the Democratic Party.

When it comes to what they view as the biggest threats to democracy, the respondents answered, in this order: racism and rise in hate crimes, voting rights and voter suppression, and rollback of civil rights. 

Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation said during the conference call that her biggest takeaway from the poll was that hate and racism seem to be playing a growing role in black women’s lives.

“When we asked the question around what black women thought was threatening our democracy, the number one issue was racism and rise in hate crimes—and so there’s the prevalence of racism being more overt,” Campbell said. “Folks are just over enraged … they want to profile you at the park; they want to profile you in the car.”

Avis Jones-DeWeever, Black Women’s Roundtable senior adviser, said what stood out to her in terms of the results was that Harris generated such strong support even though her campaign has experienced some trip ups in recent weeks. Harris’ poll numbers dropped after the second round of debates in Detroit, where fellow candidate Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, attacked Harris for her record of criminal prosecutions while a prosecutor in California and state attorney general.

“It was surprising to me that millennials supported her [Harris] at such a high rate even though this demographic has largely been likely to critique her on that very issue,” Jones-DeWeever told Fortune.

Scott said that she was taken aback to see that Cory Booker, the Democratic U.S. senator from New Jersey and the only other black candidate in the top 10, did not generate more enthusiastic support.

“I was surprised that Cory Booker came out so low, especially when criminal justice and police reform is so prominent,” Scott said.

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