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California Voter Participation Survey

Cross-Tabulation Summary Report

Detailed Findings: African Americans

The respondents to the survey included 100 self-identified African American infrequent voters and another 97 self-identified African American nonvoters. Further analysis of these African American respondents yields additional results.

Right Direction Versus Wrong Track

When asked whether California is going in the right direction or is off on the wrong track, African Americans responded the most negatively of all ethnic subgroups. While half of all infrequent voters think the state is going in the right direction and a third say wrong track, only one quarter of African American infrequent voters say right direction, while nearly two-thirds (62%) say wrong track. African American nonvoters are slightly less pessimistic than infrequent voters, but the majority think California is on the wrong track (53%), compared to 37% of all nonvoters.  Both groups of African Americans, infrequent voters and nonvoters, are more opinionated than all other infrequent voters or nonvoters.  When asked this question, African American infrequent voters and nonvoters are less likely to say “Don’t know” than all infrequent voters and all nonvoters.

Right Direction / Wrong Track

Infrequent
Voters

Nonvoters

All

African Americans

All

African Americans

Right Direction

50

25

40

36

Wrong Track

33

62

37

53

Don’t Know

17

13

23

8

 

Importance of Voting

African Americans have similar feelings regarding the importance of voting as other groups.  African American nonvoters are more likely than African American infrequent voters to say that voting is not important.  While 76% of African American infrequent voters say that voting is extremely or very important, only 58% of African American nonvoters agree.  This difference is very similar to all voters, of whom 77% of infrequent voters say voting is extremely or very important compared to 47% of all nonvoters.  African American nonvoters tend to be less negative about voting than all nonvoters.  14% of African American nonvoters say voting is not so important or not at all important compared to 26% of all nonvoters.

Importance of Voting

Infrequent Voters

Nonvoters

All

African Americans

All

African Americans

Extremely important

28

33

22

30

Very important

49

43

25

28

Moderately important

19

19

26

28

Not so important

2

4

13

7

Not at all important

1

1

13

7

 

Most Important Reasons for Not Voting

African Americans, like other respondents, cite being busy as the main reason for not voting. 26% of African American infrequent voters and nonvoters alike said that being too busy to vote was their main reason for not voting. Lack of quality candidates was also an important factor for African American infrequent voters (25%), although less important for African American nonvoters (5%).

The idea that “there are no issues that affect me” was the second greatest reason for nonvoters not registering to vote. It was named by 12% of African American nonvoters, significantly higher than nonvoters overall. Similar to other groups, the belief that “voting does not make a difference” was significant to African American nonvoters (11%).

Most Important Reasons for Not Voting or Registering to Vote

Infrequent Voters

Nonvoters

All

African

Americans

All

African

Americans

I am too busy to vote

28

26

23

26

There are no candidates that I believe in

20

25

10

5

It’s too hard to get all the information I need to vote

9

5

5

4

There are no issues that affect me

6

4

2

12

I don’t remember to vote / I don’t remember how or where to register to vote

6

6

7

6

Voting doesn’t make a difference

3

5

10

11

Too many issues on the ballot

2

3

3

2

My polling place moves constantly

*

1

N/A

N/A

*Less than one percent

Barriers in the Voting Process

Among all of the different barriers in the voting process tested, African American respondents were most likely to identify getting information and understanding the voting pamphlet as the most significant barriers.  The degree to which African American infrequent voters cited these two factors as difficult barriers was no different than all infrequent voters, of whom 20% said getting the necessary information was difficult and 20% said understanding the voter information pamphlet is difficult.  Comparatively, 22% of African Americans say the voter information pamphlet is difficult to understand and 23% find it difficult to get the necessary information to make a voting decision. 

Other aspects of the voting process were less challenging for African Americans.  10% found it difficult to find their polling place, 6% found it difficult to vote absentee, and the same proportion found it difficult to vote at their polling place. Only 3% found it difficult to register to vote and 3% found it difficult to get voter materials in their preferred language.

Voting Process (African American Infrequent Voters)

Very Easy

Some-what Easy

Difficult

Don’t Know / Haven’t Done

Getting the information necessary to make your voting decision

45

31

23

1

Reading and understanding the voter information pamphlet

41

34

22

3

Finding your polling place

70

17

10

3

Voting by absentee ballot

41

10

6

43

Voting at your polling place

72

18

6

4

Registering to vote

80

17

3

0

Getting voter materials in your preferred language

83

11

3

3

 

Voting Attitudes and Experiences

Similar to other groups, African Americans hold positive attitudes towards voting, with infrequent voters tending to be more positive than nonvoters. 96% of African American infrequent voters, as well as 90% of African American nonvoters agree that it is important to stay informed about political issues.  93% of African American infrequent voters agree that voting is an important way to voice opinions on issues that affect their community, as do 78% of African American nonvoters.

However, African Americans are more skeptical about whether their vote will be counted accurately than respondents in general.  79% of African American infrequent voters believe their vote will be counted accurately, compared to 89% of all infrequent voters. This gap is more apparent among African American nonvoters; only one-half believe their vote will be counted accurately, compared to over two-thirds of all nonvoters.

African Americans are also less sure about the power of their vote. 79% of African American infrequent voters and 68% of African American nonvoters agree that voting lets you choose who represents you in government, compared to 89% of all voters and 71% of all nonvoters.

African Americans tend to be more politically engaged compared to other groups. 66% of African American infrequent voters say that while growing up, their family often discussed political issues, compared to 59% of all infrequent voters and 54% of Latino infrequent voters. 47% of African American nonvoters also agree with this statement, compared to 46% of all nonvoters. Similarly, African Americans are more likely to disagree that their friends hardly ever talk about politics, with 51% of African American infrequent voters disagreeing that their friends hardly ever talk about politics, compared to 49% of all voters.

There is strong cynicism among some African Americans in each group. One-third of each group say there’s no one on the ballot that they want to vote for and 21% of infrequent voters and 32% of nonvoters say that they believe they make more of a statement by not voting than by voting.

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Voting Experiences and Attitudes

African American Infrequent Voters

African American Nonvoters

Agree

Disagree

Agree

Disagree

It is important to stay informed about political issues

96

3

90

9

Voting is an important way to voice your opinions on issues that affect your family and your community

91

9

78

17

Voting is an important part of being a good citizen

89

11

68

29

I am interested in politics and follow it in the news when I have the chance

86

14

67

30

Poll workers are generally polite and helpful

86

5

54

13

I like to vote

84

13

46

45

I believe that my vote makes a difference in the outcome of the election

81

17

61

35

My family votes in most or all elections

80

14

54

39

I believe that when I vote, my vote will be counted accurately

79

18

50

46

Voting lets you choose who represents you in government

79

21

68

28

Growing up, my family often discussed political issues and candidates

66

33

47

49

My friends vote in most or all elections

62

28

41

51

My friends hardly ever talk about politics

48

51

66

32

There is no one on the ballot that I want to vote for

37

61

39

52

I make more of a statement by not voting than I would if I voted

21

74

32

56

 

Most Important Reason to Vote

African American respondents are most motivated to vote in order to make their voice heard. 38% of African American infrequent voters and nonvoters named making their voice heard and expressing their opinion as the most important reason to vote. Their sentiments are similar to all respondents.

Supporting a particular candidate is also named by a significant proportion of both groups. 7% of both groups said it is important to vote because “people struggled for the right to vote.”

Most Important Reason to Vote

Infrequent
 Voters

Nonvoters

All

African Americans

All

African Americans

Make your voice heard / express your opinion

43

38

32

38

To support a particular candidate

24

22

19

22

Civic duty

9

9

9

6

People struggled for the right to vote

3

7

4

7

To support a particular ballot issue

6

5

5

5

Can’t complain unless you vote

5

4

10

8

To oppose a particular candidate

2

3

3

1

Pressure from family & friends

1

1

1

3

Something on ballot affects my family

3

1

2

2

Something on ballot affects pocketbook

1

*

2

*

To oppose a particular ballot issue

*

*

1

*

As long as people don’t vote, government will be controlled by corporations/special interests

*

*

1

2

*Less than one percent

Reasons People Don’t Vote

Like all groups, the top reason that African American respondents do not vote in every election is that they feel that politics are controlled by special interests. Two-thirds of both groups agreed that this is a reason they do not vote.

In addition, African Americans also strongly believe that candidates don’t speak to them, with 61% of infrequent voters agreeing as well as 60% of nonvoters. Comparatively these figures are less significant among other groups (55% of nonvoters and 49% of infrequent voters).

African Americans are also likely to feel that there are “just too many things on the ballot.” 42% of both infrequent and nonvoting African Americans agree with this statement. In addition, over one-third of people in both groups say the issues are “too confusing.” 37% of infrequent African American voters and 42% of nonvoters say it is “too hard to sift through all the information available to make a good decision,” compared to 45% of all infrequent voters and 52% of all nonvoters.

While being too busy was important for African Americans, it was less of a barrier than for other voters. 32% of African American infrequent voters say they are too busy to vote, compared to 43% of all infrequent voters. 39% of African American nonvoters say they are too busy, compared to 46% of all nonvoters.

African American respondents are more likely than other groups to choose not to vote because they don’t think their votes will be counted accurately. 36% of African American infrequent voters say they don’t vote because their vote won’t be counted accurately, compared to just 22% of all voters. These statistics are also noticeable among nonvoters, with 45% of African American nonvoters saying they don’t think their vote will be counted accurately, compared to 38% of all voters.

One in three African American infrequent voters and nonvoters named lack of interest in politics as a reason that they don’t vote. African American respondents also named distrust of election information (33% of infrequent voters, 54% of nonvoters); difficulty getting necessary information (23% of infrequent voters, 36% of nonvoters); no perceived personal effect of election results (17% of nonvoters, 30% of infrequent voters); and a belief that votes don’t make a difference (21% of nonvoters, 44% of infrequent voters).

Reasons People Don’t Vote (% Agree)

Infrequent Voters

All

African Americans

Politics are controlled by special interests

66

67

I don’t feel that candidates really speak to me

49

61

There are just too many things on the ballot

37

42

The issues are too confusing

42

38

It is too hard to sift through all the information available to make good decisions on how to vote

45

37

I don’t believe that my vote will actually be counted accurately

22

36

I am just not interested in politics

29

33

I don’t trust any of the election information available

24

33

I am too busy with work or my family

43

32

It is too hard to get the information necessary to make my voting decision

25

23

My vote doesn’t make a difference

20

21

The results of elections just don’t have any effect on me personally

19

17

It’s too hard to figure out where to vote

11

16

Voting is an isolating and lonely experience

8

12

The poll workers are unfriendly or unhelpful

6

11

The voting equipment is difficult to use

9

10

I do not feel that the United States is my home

6

10

I’m not comfortable in my polling place

7

8

I don’t have access to election information in my preferred language

10

7

 

The Time Barrier

African Americans who agreed that they were too busy to vote were asked to identify the specific time barrier. African American respondents were similar to others in naming long job hours as the main component of the time barrier. A majority of African American infrequent voters and 34% of African American nonvoters named long job hours.

Voting itself taking too much time was the second most named time barrier, cited by 19% of infrequent voters and 18% of nonvoters. Lack of childcare and difficulty finding the information to vote were also named.  0% of African American infrequent voters named “finding the information to vote” as a time barrier.

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The Information Problem

Among African Americans, the greatest problem with election information is that it is untrustworthy. A majority of African American nonvoters as well as 44% of African American infrequent voters rated “untrustworthy” information as the greatest barrier. These percentages are significantly greater than those of all nonvoters (39%) and all infrequent voters (29%).

Difficulty understanding information was also reported by both groups (36% of African American infrequent voters and 32% of nonvoters), although in slightly smaller proportions than all infrequent voters (49%) and all nonvoters (39%).

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Registering to Vote

African American nonvoters were asked to respond to a series of questions about their history of registering to vote. Compared to all nonvoters, African Americans were more likely to know where to find voter registration forms (74%) than all nonvoters (68%). 22% don’t want to register because they want to make sure that their information remains private, and 29% say that they don’t want to register because they don’t want to get called for jury duty. 13% said that they thought they were already registered through the DMV.

41% of African Americans say they have been registered at some point before and 21% say they have filled out a voter registration form. African Americans were slightly less likely than other groups to say it is difficult to stay registered because they move around so much (21%).

Registering to Vote (Nonvoters) % Agree

 

African Americans

All

I know where to find voter registration forms

74

68

I have been registered before, but not at my current address

41

44

I have filled out a voter registration form

21

30

I don’t want to register because I want my information to be private

22

23

I don’t want to register because I don’t want to get called for jury duty

29

24

I thought I was registered through the DMV

13

18

I move around so frequently that it is difficult to stay registered

21

24

I don’t want to register because it could cause trouble for my family

4

6

 

Issues that Motivate People to Vote

Like all respondents, African Americans are most motivated to vote by the issue of education and schools. African Americans are also motivated to vote by the issues of the economy, leadership, and health care. African American nonvoters are less motivated by the issue of leadership (6%) compared to African American infrequent voters (15%).

Also motivating, though to fewer African Americans, are the war on Iraq, taxes, the budget, and crime and public safety. Taxes are more important to African American nonvoters (13%) than to African American infrequent voters (8%) and all nonvoters (6%).

The analysis indicates that African American infrequent voters are more motivated to vote than African American nonvoters.  21% of African American nonvoters say that nothing would motivate them to vote, compared to 17% of all nonvoters. 4% of African American infrequent voters say nothing would motivate them to vote, a percentage which is slightly less than all infrequent voters (8%).

Issues That Motivate People To Vote

Infrequent
 Voters

Nonvoters

All

African Americans

All

AfricanAmericans

Education/Schools

20

21

17

23

Government/Leadership

12

15

13

6

The Economy

17

12

11

12

Health Care

12

12

7

4

War on Iraq

10

10

7

8

Taxes

9

8

6

13

The Budget

5

7

2

2

Crime and Public Safety

3

6

3

5

War on Terrorism/National Security

6

5

5

7

Cost of Living

3

3

4

8

Growth, Development and Land Usage

1

2

1

*

Immigration

4

1

3

1

The Environment

4

1

2

2

Housing

1

1

1

5

Transportation, Roads and Freeways

1

1

1

1

Nothing would motivate me to vote

8

4

17

21

* Less than one percent

Election Day Holiday

An Election Day holiday does not have a significant effect on the likelihood that African American respondents would vote. 73% infrequent voters and 64% of nonvoters say that an Election Day holiday would not make any difference in how likely they are to vote. Of those who do say it would make a difference, they are more likely to say it would encourage them to vote, especially among nonvoters.

Election Day Holiday

 

Infrequent
 Voters

Nonvoters

 

All

African Americans

All

African Americans

More likely to vote

20

15

16

24

No difference

64

73

70

64

Less likely to vote

15

12

12

11

 

Election Information Sources

Respondents were asked about the influence that various sources of election information have on their voting decisions. Among African American infrequent voters, local newspapers were rated as very influential, as well as network and cable TV news. 71% of infrequent voters say conversations with friends are influential. Conversations with family are also important, with 69% of infrequent voters saying they are either very or moderately influential.

Less influential were endorsements from public figures, radio campaign ads, alternative media, campaign phone calls, and door-knocking campaign volunteers.

Election Information Sources (African American Infrequent Voters)

Very Influential

Moderately Influential

Slightly Influential

Not At All Influential

Local newspaper in English

36

36

10

17

Network TV news in English

34

33

12

17

Conversations with family

33

36

12

17

Cable TV news in English

33

40

11

13

Conversations with friends

28

43

11

15

Local radio news

27

36

9

25

Endorsements from community groups

27

25

16

24

Phone call from a political campaign

22

25

10

36

Talk radio

21

36

13

26

Internet

21

34

4

33

TV ads from a political campaign

20

30

20

29

Endorsements from public figures

19

28

15

28

Radio ads from a political campaign

18

37

14

29

Alternative media

18

26

13

30

Volunteer at your door from a political campaign

18

17

11

49

Mail from a political campaign

13

42

6

35

Media in a language other than English

9

20

6

60

 

Current Events Information Sources

Like all voters, television is an important information source for African Americans surveyed. 50% of African American infrequent voters and 67% of African American nonvoters get most of their information on current events from television. African American nonvoters are less likely than infrequent voters to receive their information from newspapers (28% of infrequent voters, 23% of nonvoters), but both groups rely on newspapers more than all infrequent and nonvoters generally.

Current Events Information Sources

 

Infrequent
 Voters

Nonvoters

 

All

African Americans

All

African Americans

Network TV

24

26

27

31

Cable TV

23

24

29

36

Newspaper

21

28

18

23

Internet

14

5

11

4

Radio

9

3

4

1

Conversations with friends & family

6

6

6

3

Alternative media

2

3

2

*

 

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This page was first published on April 7, 2005 | Last updated on January 27, 2006
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