The John Mercer Langston Institute (JMLI) for African American Political Leadership at Virginia State University Releases New Findings.
VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY, VA- With fewer than five days until the 2020 elections, Black Virginia voters in the Commonwealth of Virginia are saying definitively that they are not pleased with the current state of electoral politics. Today, the newly developed John Mercer Langston Institute (JMLI) for African American Political Leadership at Virginia State University(VSU) released the initial findings of the Black Virginia Voters 2020 Poll. Participants of the study were Black voters, ages 18-60+, with various educational backgrounds from Central, Southwest, Tidewater, and Northern Virginia who responded to surveys and polls made available on the VSU website. The results show a trend that most African American voters who responded to the poll are ready to see a change in the landscape of politics within the State.
The findings show that Black Virginia voters are resolute in their belief that the needs of their people are not being adequately addressed on a local, state, and federal level. Black Virginians make up a little over 19% of the total population in the State, and there is widespread belief amongst political circles that, similar to the national electorate, the African American voting block is arguably the most reliable constituency group within the Democratic Party. The poll confirmed this theory with nearly 97% of all participants stating that the candidates that they have supported in the past were Democrat. However, that was in the past. More than 20% of all participants identified themselves as either Independent or not belonging to a political party. As questions about their beliefs and about their vote went more in-depth, the findings became more interesting.
Showing Up to the Polls
From a reliability perspective, the JMLI Black Virginia Voters Poll showed that although African Americans make up only one fifth of the population, Black voters are very engaged and vote consistently. Specific to elections pertaining to the Office of the Governor, House of Representatives, and Senate, the Virginia Department of Elections reported that 47.6% of all registered voters participated in the November 2017 general election. The JMLI poll found that the number of Black voters exceeded that average. More than 67% of Black voters polled participated in the 2017 gubernatorial election, and more than 76% participated in the 2017 General Assembly election.
The Virginia Department of Elections also reported that 42.4% of all registered voters participated in the 2019 General Assembly election, and the JMLI poll found that more than 80% of Black voters participated in the same election.
On a local level, according to the poll, 77% of all Black voters participated in their most recent city council or board of supervisor election. Black voters were also very engaged on a national level with more than 85% of Black Virginia voters participating in the 2020 Presidential Primary and more than 84% participating in the 2018 Congressional election.
Black Issues and Representation
Although it is clear that Black Virginians are engaged in the political process as it pertains to voting, many felt that their issues are not being addressed on a local, state, or federal level. Only 24% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that Black issues are directly addressed by elected officials in the General Assembly, and only 25% believed that Black issues are directly being addressed by elected officials on the local level. While the poll found a low level of satisfaction in regards to their issues being addressed, much of this belief could be attributed to a lack of representation of the second largest ethnic group in the Commonwealth in elected office. The election of 2019 bought in several new Black legislators, and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) saw its largest group since Reconstruction. Currently there are 23 members in total in the VLBC. However, there are 140 members in total in the General Assembly. On a local level, there are fewer than 50 Black elected officials in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Of the Black Virginia voters who partook in the JMLI poll, nearly 94% believed that Virginia needs more Black elected officials. As aforementioned, only 25% of those who participated in the poll believed that Black issues were directly addressed on the local level and roughly 24% believed that Black issues were being addressed in the General Assembly.
Twenty-twenty was a year of protest across the country with people demanding change in policy, and specifically within the realm of criminal justice reform. Although the polling numbers were low in regards to the beliefs that “Black Issues” were being addressed here in Virginia, VSU Alum and General Assembly member, Delegate Lashrecse Aird, sponsored and eventually had Governor Northam sign “Breonna’s Law” into state law during the 2020 special session. Under the new law, search warrants can only be served during daylight hours unless law enforcement can show a judge or magistrate good cause against daytime service. The law also does not apply to search warrants seeking the withdrawal of blood from a subject; those can be served anytime.
The Push for More
While the Black Virginia Voters Poll shed light on an array of issues, it is abundantly clear that there is a need for more work to be done. For this reason, specifically, the JMLI was created. There is a clean need for a new pipeline of Black elected leadership, political education and engagement, and research and information sharing as it pertains to the needs, wants, and desires of Black people in Virginia. In the year 2021, JMLI will host the inaugural “African American Political Leadership Institute” which will address the specifics of:
- How to Run for Office
- Policy Analysis
- The Role of Local and State Government
- Research in the Political field
- Networking Opportunities for African Americans in the political field
The John Mercer Langston Institute for African American Political Leadership conducts gold standard surveys using data collected electronically.
Submitted by Gwen Williams Dandridge Interim Director of Communications Virginia State University 804-524-5583 firstname.lastname@example.org.