Skip to main content

"Does My Vote Matter?" Read the Latest Report by Working America

Jeremy Sprinkle
Social share icons

Black voters’ views on why voter turnout dropped in 2016 and how to turn it around in 2018

Since the 2016 election, Working America has mobilized its canvassing operation to get to the bottom of what happened by having face-to-face conversations with voters on their doorsteps. Their latest "Front Porch Focus Group" report delves into why turnout among African-Americans dropped last year and what that could mean for mid-term elections in 2018.

In 2012, African-American voters in Ohio turned out at an astonishingly high rate of 72 percent, far higher than the state’s overall turnout of 63 percent. But in 2016, black voter turnout fell to just 62 percent.1 That was below Ohio’s 64 percent overall voter turnout rate for that year, and the drop made up as much as a fifth of Hillary Clinton’s margin of defeat.2

If black voter turnout remains depressed in 2018, it will doom Democrats’ chances in Ohio’s upcoming elections for the U.S. Senate, governor and state legislature. To see what steps should be taken, Working America canvassers had face-to-face conversations with 582 working-class African-American voters in central Ohio and sought their views. Our conversations reveal a community that deeply distrusts the political process. Economic issues are their overriding concern, yet almost half of black voters say it makes no difference to their economic well-being which party is in power. One Columbus woman, echoing many of her neighbors, said of voting, “Does it even matter?”

And yet, 66 percent of the African-American voters we talked with, including voters who skipped voting in 2016, signed an email pledge to vote in 2018. These pledges do not guarantee a vote next year, but are promising indicators that voter turnout can be increased significantly, especially with long-term engagement.

We talked with these voters — and non-voters — about why voter turnout declined, the potential for activism in the Trump era, and how the drop in turnout can be reversed. Though many of the conversations were sobering, they offer invaluable guidance on what can inspire working-class African-American voters in 2018. Here are our key takeaways: ...

Read the full report at