The Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs (PBI) at Cal State Los Angeles has released a new poll of Black voters in Los Angeles County, a community that is expected to be a major factor in the California presidential primaries on “Super Tuesday,” March 3, 2020.
The poll of more than 2,300 Black registered voters in Los Angeles County is one of the largest surveys of Black voters in a geographic area. The findings reveal that Black voters are highly engaged in civic affairs, voting and charitable giving, and are decidedly concerned with homelessness, affordable housing and transportation policy issues.
The poll also details Black voters’ disapproval of President Donald Trump and how they are lining up around the Democratic presidential candidates in the run up to the all-important California primary in March 2020.
“We have a tremendous opportunity leading up to the 2020 election to engage people around key issues that they care about, to pull in those people who may not be a part of the process or may not be civically engaged, to ensure that we get robust turnout going forward,” said Shakari Byerly, partner and lead researcher for Los Angeles-based public opinion research firm EVITARUS, which conducted the poll.
The findings were announced during a special event at the California African American Museum July 17, less than two weeks before the second round of Democratic presidential primary debates on July 30-31. Guests included elected officials, scholars and community organizers.
“What you are doing is important,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “It contributes to the knowledge base, it causes us to have a greater appreciation, it makes it clear that every single voter and the role that he or she plays, ethnically and more broadly demographically, is of consequence.”
The newly released poll is part of a groundbreaking multiyear, PBI project to survey four major racial and ethnic populations in Los Angeles County: the Asian-American, Latino, African-American, and Jewish communities.
“This is a particularly timely and important survey,” said Raphael J. Sonenshein, PBI executive director. “I think it is going to make quite a bit of difference in conversations around town.”
Trump and 2020 candidates
The poll found that an overwhelming majority of Black voters in Los Angeles County hold negative attitudes toward President Trump, with 86 percent saying they disapprove of the president and 87 percent saying they would not vote to re-elect him.
On the Democratic side, the findings show that Black voters are lining up around former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris, with 34 percent saying they favor Biden and 21 percent supporting Harris. There were 17 percent who said they support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and 11 percent supported Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with no other candidate reaching 10 percent.
Byerly pointed out that the findings show that Biden does well among stronger partisan Democrats, frequent churchgoers, and older voters, with support from 46 percent of baby-boomer respondents, but only 20 percent of millennials. Harris performed well with women and highly educated voters.
Sanders polled particularly well with young Black men as well as those who have negative views of the Los Angeles Police Department. Respondents who identified law enforcement accountability and criminal justice as top policy priorities more often supported Sanders or Warren above Biden or Harris, the findings show.
“While this is a pre-debate poll, I think there are some important trends that are fundamental that will underlie the base of each of the candidates,” Byerly said.
Issues facing Los Angeles
Without prompting, respondents cited homelessness (53 percent), affordable housing (44 percent) and transportation (21 percent) as the most pressing policy issues facing the greater Los Angeles area.
Ridley-Thomas underscored the severity of the homelessness issue in Los Angeles County, especially affecting the Black community. He cited a 2019 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority study that found that the Black community makes up 9 percent of the county’s population, but more than one-third of the homeless population.
Voting and civic engagement
The findings show that Black voters in Los Angeles County are highly engaged with the political process and their communities. The poll found that 95 percent believe it is extremely important or very important for Black people to vote in every election, and 90 percent said voting in elections is very effective in advancing the interests of the Black community.
Discrimination and law enforcement
A majority of respondents (60 percent) said they have experienced discrimination in the greater Los Angeles area in recent years. These instances occurred most often at businesses, retailers or restaurants (38 percent); in relation to jobs or promotions (31 percent); or with strangers in public places (18 percent). Twenty-seven percent cited profiling by law enforcement.
“These situations are daily and countless,” a 29-year-old survey respondent from Carson said.
In the poll, 51 percent of respondents said they disapprove of the Los Angeles Police Department, with 49 percent disapproving of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Among the poll respondents, 21 percent view crime, drugs, guns, violence and gangs as the most important problems facing the region.
“This data can have broad ranging implications in terms of the Black electorate and public opinion,” said Boris Ricks, an associate professor of political science at Cal State Northridge. “This survey speaks to the importance of the African American vote.”