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TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Priorities USA, Color of Change PAC, Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group,
Brossard Research, Global Strategy Group
DATE: January 23, 2018
RE: New Research among Unregistered African-American Millennials


As part of a larger survey among African-American Millennial mobilization targets, we took a look at a key subgroup
of those who currently are not registered to vote, but say that they would be open to registering in the near future.
While those in this group, much like the others in their cohort, harbor significant suspicion about politics and our
political system, our survey results indicate that the potential to engage and eventually mobilize these potential
voters is great—understanding that this cannot be achieved without a significant commitment of time, energy, and
resources. In fact, more than half of African-American Millennials who currently are not registered to vote are
bonafide targets for future mobilization. And after going through our survey, which engaged respondents on several
political issues pertinent to young African Americans’ lives, we measured encouraging upward movement in
respondents’ views on the efficacy of voting and reported level of enthusiasm in getting involved politically. The data
therefore suggest that there is tremendous value in having a conversation with these young people about the power
of voting and the many ways in which state and local officeholders have a direct impact on their lives.
Key priorities include:

• Harnessing the sense that these young people feel that their community is under attack, and empowering
them to get out and vote as a way of standing up for their rights against those who threaten them
• Recognizing that many young people who currently are disenfranchised are feeling economically squeezed,
and are looking for candidates who will promote economic advancement in their communities
• Displaying clearly that Trump and the Republican Party are on the wrong side of issues around racial justice,
especially criminal justice reform and ending police brutality

Summary of Key Findings

The segment of survey respondents who are not registered skews younger and more heavily male than the larger
African-American Millennial mobilization universe we surveyed: 49% are under age 25 and 57% are men, compared
with 36% under 25 and 44% male among those who are registered. What’s more, 72% of this cohort do not have a
four-year college degree and currently are not pursuing one (compared with 59% among those who are registered),
and only 25% are working full time (compared with 43% among those who are registered).

In spite of these differences, young African Americans across the board express a similar sense of cynicism about
and disillusionment with the political process. When asked to rate themselves in terms of their personal motivation to
get involved politically (on a scale from zero to 10), the mean response is 4.3 among both those who are registered
and those who are not. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of those who are unregistered place themselves on the low end of
the scale (ratings from zero to three), while only 23% place themselves on the high end of the scale (ratings from
seven to 10). Among both registered and unregistered African-American Millennials, fewer than half (47% and 46%,
respectively) say that voting is a very or fairly effective way to bring about change, while slight majorities believe that
voting is just somewhat effective or not effective. What’s more, fully three-quarters of unregistered young African
Americans agree with the sentiment that “no matter who wins an election, very little in my life or in my community ever
seems to change.”

On the other hand, however, this group of unregistered young people have a strong sense that their community is
under attack, and that now is the time to stand up for their rights against those who threaten them. Seventy-two
percent (72%) agree with the statement that “now more than ever, it's important for young African-American people to
get out and vote, since many people out there—including those in power—are trying to take our rights away,”
including nearly four in 10 (39%) who strongly agree. And when we ask which of two statements about politics they
agree with more, a 57% majority sides with an energizing and motivating message (that their community is under
attack, and now is the time for young African Americans to get involved and make their voices heard), as opposed to
only 43% who take the more dejected and cynical view (that politics is a joke and a waste of time, and their votes
don’t really count).

As with others in the young African-American community, race is fundamental to the way that these potential voters
think about the world and their place in it, and issues around racial justice prove both personally important and highly
motivating to them. An overwhelming 90% of these unregistered young people report that racism is a big problem in
the country today—including 61% who say it is a “very big” problem—and more than three in five (61%) say that
racism affects them a great deal or a fair amount in their personal lives. When presented with a list of 15 specific
things they might hear about a candidate running for local office, a candidate’s commitment to ending police brutality
emerges as the most important item to them personally (on a scale from zero to 10, 74% rank this as an eight or
higher, with 60% giving it a “10”). We also tested a host of longer, narrative messages about Trump and the
Republicans’ agenda concerning some of the most pressing issues affecting young African Americans—including
issues specific to the African-American community, as well as broader economic issues. Of these, two messages
stand out most among the unregistered segment: a message about mass incarceration and the need for criminal
justice reform (61% rate this as a seven or higher on a zero-to-10 scale on how motivated it makes them feel), and a
message about systemic mistreatment of African Americans by law enforcement (59% rate as a seven or higher).

However, those who aren’t registered to vote also put a strong focus on issues around economic opportunity and
advancement—more so than African Americans in their age group who are registered. When two candidates are
pitted against each other, 59% of unregistered African-American Millennials tell us that they would be more likely to
pay attention to a candidate for office who talks about ways of increasing economic security and opportunity for young
people, and 41% would be more likely to pay attention to a candidate who talks about the problems of racism, mass
incarceration, and police violence. (Those who are registered, by contrast, split evenly on this question.) And in fact,
when presented with that same list of 15 elements of a potential candidate’s platform and asked to rank which three
are most important to them, the number-one pick (chosen by 39% of those who are unregistered) is about jobs and
wages, specifically in minority communities: that a candidate “will fight to create jobs and raise wages, including
among minorities and young people, and in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

In this regard, the Democratic Party still has significant work to do in order to prove to young African Americans that
they are on their side and that Democratic policies will help their lives directly. When asked which of the two political
parties does a better job of representing people like them, 53% choose the Democrats and 5% choose the
Republicans; however, another 42% say that neither party really represents them. And while these unregistered
young people express favorable feelings toward the Democratic Party (44% favorable, 11% unfavorable), another
45% tell us they are neutral or don’t know enough to have an opinion. Similarly, only slightly more than half (51%)
say definitively that the Democratic Party is “for people like me,” while the rest say the party is either against them
(5%) or neither for nor against them (44%). (By comparison, 57% of those who are registered believe the Democratic
Party is for them.)


Encouragingly, over the course of the survey, the proportion of unregistered young adults who feel that voting is a
very or fairly effective way of bringing about change jumps from 46% at the outset to 59% by the end. Even more
striking, we measured substantial improvement in their personal level of enthusiasm for getting involved politically: the
proportion of unregistered young adults rating themselves as a seven or higher (on a zero-to-10 motivation scale)
more than doubles, from 23% to 49%, with the mean rating increasing from 4.3 to 6.2. Based on these results, we
believe it is both critically important and entirely possible to empower these young people—bringing them into the
political process by showing them that they can make a difference in their own lives and in their communities, and that
the ballot box is step number-one toward doing so.

About this Research

From October 18 to 29, 2017, Garin-Hart-Yang, Brossard Research, and Global Strategy Group conducted a
national online survey among 828 African-American turnout targets under age 35. Of these, 200 interviews were
completed among young African Americans who are not registered to vote, but report that they are open to
registering in the near future.