Black Women Vote in Higher Numbers Than Any Other Demographic

Oct 26, 2016

If you had to guess, which demographic of American society do you think votes, in the highest numbers?

The answer – in the last two general elections: black women.

Glynda Carr of Higher Heights for America says that shouldn't be surprising. Black women have a long tradition of political activism, she says, "From Harriet Tubman who walked so that Sojourner Truth could stand and say, 'Ain’t I a woman,' to Fannie Lou Hamer who was able to say, 'I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.'"

And, in fact, the first woman to offer herself up as a major party candidate for president was not Hillary Clinton.

It was an African-American woman, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, in 1972.  

She says African-American women have a long tradition of political activism, and her organization is working to turn that activism into leadership roles in government.
Credit Higher Heights for America

  Carr says the political leadership power of black women has become engrained in the culture. Even today, First Lady Michelle Obama is one of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s most influential campaigner - perhaps even more influential than her husband - the President.

Kelly Dittmar has studied the voting patterns of black women over the last two elections. She works for the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. In 2012 and 2014, black women represented 6.9 % of the voting population, but made up 9% of the voters.

Dittmar attributes the high turnout, in part, to how hard black women had to fight to get the right to vote:

"They were left out of enfranchisement after slavery, and women in the mainstream suffrage movement had considered a strategy to only fight for enfranchisement of white women, so I think gaining and recognizing that value of the right to vote is something black women don’t take lightly." 

And Carr says wise candidates would pay attention.

"Black women are the building blocks to a winning coalition, and we’ve proven that over the last two presidential cycles, for us, then, harness that power to ensure that candidates are not taking our votes for granted, and that there are meaningful conversations about the issues we care about as black women."

Those issues include affordable healthcare and housing, safe communities, and issues like police brutality.

But some speculate that though black women turned out for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, they won't show up in large numbers at this election.

Carr has no questions they will, and that they’ll bring friends.

"When you fire up a black woman, she doesn’t go to the polls alone. She brings her house her church her block and her water cooler. And on November eighth, we will prove the naysayers wrong, and do what we’ve been doing which is to pile our loved ones into a car or on a bus, or actually walk to the polls and ensure our voices votes and leadership matter in this election cycle."