WASHINGTON, D.C.— It was standing room only during lively panel discussions that were hosted by Essence Magazine and the Black Women's Roundtable (BWR) on Wednesday in the nation's capital, to discuss the power of the "sister" vote and results of a revealing new poll that sheds light on priority issues for Black women in the 2016 presidential election.
The "7th Annual BWR Policy Forum Series" took place on day one of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference held at the Washington Convention Center. The forum, co-hosted by the CBCF, drew a large, intergenerational audience of African-American women and men, who heard from policymakers, community and business leaders from around the country.
"Voting is more critical than ever," said Vanessa De Luca, editor-in-chief, ESSENCE magazine. "Black women are taking an active interest in the upcoming election and they plan to vote for a candidate who will address issues that can improve their quality of life."
As the campaign season heats up, an exclusive poll commissioned by ESSENCE and BWR shows that affordable healthcare, livable wage jobs and college affordability rank as the most important issues among nearly 2,000 African-American women who responded.
"The top issues for Black women revolve around money and basic needs, "said Melanie L. Campbell, national convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable.
African-American women are emerging as a powerful force in American electoral politics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black women have had the largest voter turnout of any demographic group since 2006.
And in the 2012 presidential election, Black women voted at a higher rate than any other group across gender, race and ethnicity distinctions, according to a report from the Center for American Progress. Today, 76 percent of Black women are registered to vote.
Black women are "the most potent political group in American politics," said political guru Donna Brazile, who has joined ESSENCE as a contributor for the 2016 election season. "It's not about our size, it's about our participation."
The "ESSENCE/BWR survey" was hosted online and on various social media platforms.
The topic, "What Black women want from the next president of the United States," garnered 1,862 respondents from around the country.
Asked what top three issues were most important in the upcoming 2016 presidential election, affordable healthcare topped the list, followed by living wage jobs and college affordability. For Black women ages 18-34, quality public education and criminal justice reform are more important, along with college affordability.
-Nearly all respondents are registered voters and the few who are not do plan to register.
-78 percent identified as Democrats; 1 percent as Republicans; 17 percent were unaffiliated
-Black women say they feel a strong responsibility to vote given our history.
-Nearly nine out of 10 would vote for President Obama in the 2016 election if it were possible.
At several points throughout the discussion, certain topics drew applause. Among the loudest cheers: the idea of a Black woman someday being nominated to the Supreme Court.