It’s that time of year again. For the 6th year, Black Women’s Roundtable and ESSENCE present Power of the Sister Vote, an annual survey that looks deeply at the concerns of Black women in the United States and how—and for whom—they plan to vote.

As COVID-19 and state violence continue to devastate families and communities, and the Trump Administration continues to coddle and embolden white supremacists, the overwhelming concerns of Black women have slightly shifted.

The 2020 BWR/ESSENCE Poll shows that:

  • Black women are overwhelmingly concerned about survival, safety and stability when it comes to issues impacting Black communities.
  • The overall top three issues Black women believe are adversely impacting U.S. Democracy are racism/rise in hate crimes; corruption in government; and voting rights/voter suppression tactics.
  • Black women identify “reducing structural/systemic racism” and “policing and criminal justice reform” as the top two issues they want presidential candidates to commit to addressing to win their vote, followed by “eradicating COVID-19” and “protecting the safety net (Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security).”

The poll also shows Black women respondents overwhelmingly favor the Biden/Harris Ticket (90%), while giving the current president a failing grade for the fourth straight year (80%).

In 2019, criminal justice and policing reform were the number one issues, separated by a mere 1% from affordable healthcare as the number two issue. In 2018, the number one issue was hate crimes/racism, up to 55% from 33% in 2017.

The 6th Power of the Sister poll also showed that Black women’s confidence in the Democratic Party demonstrated a generational divide. Still, the majority of Black women in all age groups agree that Democrats best represent their interests, with 87% of Black women 55 & over, 58% of Black women 25-35, and 60% of Black women 18-24 indicating as such. 

In 2019, 73% of Black women, which was the same as in 2018, identified Democrats as the party that best represents their issues, however 23.6% identified as Independents or non-affiliated and 0.01% as Republican. In contrast, only 45 % of Black women 25-35 agreed that the Democratic Party best represented their interests, with nearly one-third indicating that no party represents them.

According to the 2018 Power of the Sister Vote survey, the Democratic Party experienced a 12 % drop in support from Black women from 2017, while the percentage of Black women who said neither Democrats nor the Republican Party represents their best interests increased by one percent—21% in 2017 to 22% in 2018.

Regarding their 2020 voting plan, Black women are especially likely to vote by mail/absentee ballot (41%) or vote early in person (35%). Additionally, the survey reveals higher levels of voter enthusiasm due to the Supreme Court hanging in the balance.

According to Melanie L. Campbell, President of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, “The 2020 BWR/ESSENCE Poll is a reflection of the concerns we are hearing and seeing on the ground across the country. This is the third year in a row that racism and rise in hate crimes has registered as the top concern for Black women.

“Over the past three years we have seen a shift from more aspirational concerns to those rooted in survival, safety and stability,” Campbell continued. “I believe the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests due to racial unrest calling for eradication of systemic/structural racism and policing & criminal justice reform across the nation are reflected in this year’s poll.”

Power of the Sister Vote

Caroline Wanga, Interim CEO ESSENCE Communications, Inc., weighed in on the critical nature of not only the 2020 election, but the interior lives and experiences of Black women.

“There is absolutely no question of the power of Black women in driving major social and community change – and election 2020 is no different as one of the most important ever for Black women and communities in the United States, especially in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, economic instability, police brutality, social unrest and more as Black women focus on keeping our families healthy, safe and prosperous,” Caroline Wanga, Interim CEO ESSENCE Communications, Inc., said.

Wanga continued, “With our multi-platform coverage at the cusp of one of the most historic elections in our lifetime—including a regular column and our new digital cover featuring vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris and the stories of the Black women leading the Harris-Biden campaign, ESSENCE’s partnership with Black Women’s Roundtable for the annual Power of the Sister vote is more critical than ever as we continue our work to ensure that the strong voices of Black women are listened to, amplified and heeded regarding the issues of most importance to us.”  

The 2020 Power of the Sister Vote survey was conducted via an online poll by ESSENCE and BWR. For a copy of the 2020 BWR/ESSENCE Poll Results, visit: Unitycampaign.org and Essence.com.