Black Women A Key Vote In Election 2004?

Women are likely to cast the majority of black votes that John Kerry is expected to receive this November. In the 2000 presidential election, 94% of black women voted Democratic, making them “the single strongest group in the country,” says David A. Bositis, senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, an African American think tank in Washington, D.C. In comparison, 85% of black men voted for Al Gore.

In 1996, black men dramatically increased their contribution to the overall black vote so that it equaled the black women’s vote. However, according to the exit polls in 2000, black women represented 60% of the black vote while black men represented 40% — the same breakdown as in 1992.

African Americans tend to support the Democratic Party more than whites and other races, but this is even more so the case with black women. This could be attributed in part to the gender gap — a tendency for women of all races to identify more with Democrats. When black women’s votes were averaged with white women’s, it gave Bill Clinton a winning majority of 54% in 1992 and 51% in 1996.

The Democratic Party tends to push domestic issues, like healthcare and education, which appeal to women voters, says Bositis. Also, considering that women have a longer life expectancy than men, Social Security and retirement have a larger influence on how they vote. Roughly 55% to 65% of all African Americans over age 65 are women.

Also relevant is the lack of partisanship among younger African Americans. A Joint Center report shows that among those aged 18 to 35, young black men are almost twice as likely as young black women to characterize themselves as independent (39% vs. 22%). Bositis hypothesizes that one reason for the increase in young black Independents is their lack of experience with the civil rights movement. This trend will likely be key in the 2004 elections since 62% of African Americans of voting age are under 44 and since “strong partisans are more likely to vote than weak partisans, independent leaners, and Independents,” according to Bositis.

Although Gore lost in 2000, black women helped him win key states, such as Pennsylvania, California, and New York. “The Democrats obviously need a very strong black vote in order to win,” continues Bositis. “Clearly, [depending on turnout,] that is going to mean a very strong black women vote.”