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Focus Groups with Black Voters Underscore Democrats’ Challenge to Communicate Progress on the Black Agenda

Washington, D.C. | Oct. 21 – Components of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, Build Back Better, address systemic racism, a top priority of Black voters. Unfortunately, many of Democrats’ most loyal voters don’t know what’s in the bill, aren’t knowledgeable of the Congressional battles, or don’t count legislative victories as a win for their community. Since we began asking Black voters about racism in 2016, addressing systemic racism has consistently remained a top priority.

The proposal allots $45 billion to replace lead pipes that have disproportionately poisoned drinking water in Black communities. And it provides subsidies for affordable housing construction, along with billions in rental assistance funding, which would drive down rent for millions of Black Americans. However, according to HIT Strategies’ consistent polls and focus groups of Black voters from the last year, this information hasn’t reached Black voters. As a result, the attitudes of voters who delivered Congress to Democrats are becoming more pessimistic with each passing month. Public and private polling show Biden’s number falling among the voters who pushed him to majority approval during the summer.

This disconnect is evident in two recent focus groups conducted by HIT Strategies of Black voters. HIT sought to determine the political engagement level of the groups and whether recent political developments are energizing them ahead of the midterms. The two groups were split between Black base voters (+35, voted in at least 4 of the following elections: 2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2008, and voted for Biden in 2020), and younger surge voters (voted for Biden or third party in 2020 but did not vote in 2016 nor 2014).

“It’s not that Democrats aren’t trying to address the needs of the Black community—it’s more that Democrats aren’t communicating the tangible benefits of their policies and connecting the dots for many Black voters, “said Terrance Woodbury, a founding partner at HIT Strategies. “Democrats are pursuing the right policies, but that information isn’t getting to Black voters who need to hear it.”

In addition to ongoing focus groups, HIT tracks Black voters’ evolving attitudes in a monthly poll named BlackTrack. The survey tracks issues like vaccination hesitancy, election outcomes, economic outlook, Biden/Harris approval, Congressional and Democratic leaders’ approval, and whether Black voters believe their lives are improving, and many national issues.

Quotations From Focus Groups 

“It’s encouraging, but what exactly is entitled with this bill though? You know what I’m saying? They’re just saying that they’re trying to help them out. But in what ways though? Where’s the further detail of what’s going to go into it? And you say you’re just helping them out, what is that going to do? Is that going to create jobs? Is that going to create more affordable income?” – Young Black Man, Surge Voter on Build Back Better

 “I just wish that they [Democrats] would be a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more cutthroat for their constituents so that we can get things done. I think that this is the opportunity that we have with having the Senate and Congress… we’re taking advantage of it, but we could do more.” – Black Woman, Base Voter 

“We have seen an increase in the black vote—especially this election—, [and it] proved to be crucial. So, what’s happening right now is the Republican states, the Republicans really, are trying to suppress that black vote. So, in our areas where the majority of voters are African Americans, they are trying to suppress that vote by taking away polling places or changing the days where you can’t have the Sunday poll. Things like that. It’s real slick.” – Black Woman, Base Voter 

“It [Texas abortion ban] is absolutely disgusting. Honestly, to me, that’s a way to start a civil war. That means my neighbor is in my business and they can tell on me, and I can go to jail, or if I help somebody to get an abortion, I can go to jail. So really, that will cause an uprising, a civil war of sorts. It’s disgusting.” – Black Woman, Base Voter 

About HIT Strategies
HIT Strategies is a public opinion research company specializing in researching Millennials, People of Color, Women, LGBTQ+ and other underserved communities. We help our clients translate their target audience’s values, attitudes, and behaviors into real-time insights and messaging. For more information, please visit hitstrat.com. Follow us on Twitter at @HITStrat.

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