The African American vote: not which way, but how many.

On average every Presidential election, a remarkable 80% of African American votes go Democrat. Although making up only 13 percent of the population in the U.S, and only 12 percent of eligible voters, African Americans increasingly play a key role each election year, which is not to say that every single African American is liberal and wholeheartedly Democrat-leaning, but that it is a historical tendency towards the blue party. As such, what psephologists look for is not which way African Americans will vote, but in what numbers they will turn up to the ballot box, as it is this figure which has the capacity to heavily influence US elections. 

A majority of swing states this year contain a large black population. Southern states such as Texas, Georgia and Florida are home to a majority of African Americans throughout the country, with over 2 million black residents in each state, yet they have religiously swung Republican through recent history.

This election year, however, with growing black populations and a shifting political climate on race, a transformation surrounding the election seems to be surging. A state like Texas – which has been firmly Republican for over a century – has the potential to turn blue because of the rise of African American voters migrating for economic reasons to key Texan cities, as well as a heightened political mood among black and activist groups, not to mention increased registration among Hispanics, all of which has the capability to generate a perfect anti-Trump/GOP storm in the state.

Cities such as Detroit, New York City, Philadelphia and Atlanta are just a few of the numerous cities in the U.S with large populations of African Americans who, when turning out to vote in an election, have the capability to sway the whole state and win it for a candidate. New York City for instance is the largest city in terms of population in the U.S – as well as the largest black population – and has been a steady Democratic city for over 100 years. When the citizens of that city vote, they are able to influence the whole state and create major victories for the Democrats and resist Republican advances. Major cities, in short, are an innate driver for how a state ends up voting overall.

Contrary to that, when African Americans are unenthusiastic and do not vote, the opposite arises. The lack of voting in this case – especially given the fact that the cities themselves tend to be Democrat – can have a seismic impact on the result because the usually Republican-leaning rural areas grow in importance.

Philadelphia in 2016 was a clear example of this, when black voter turnout across the nation declined for the first time in over 20 years. From its highest turnout in 2012 for Barack Obama at 66.6%, to a massively dipped 59.6% four years later for Hillary Clinton, the variation meant a difference of almost 35,000 votes. If voting was broken up further, it would show that the counties that were majority black were the ones that did not vote as strongly. This lack of voting cost Clinton the state, and turned Pennsylvania red for the first time since 1988.

The loss came at a time where the US was visibly torn between which candidate to choose, simply because both did not appeal to traditional political wings. As such, for African Americans specifically, choosing a candidate who will help them overcome the racial obstacles put in place in the past is a key priority.

This is a tough decision to be made when choosing between Trump or Biden for African Americans. Trump is not favored by the black community, but Biden is not off the hook after making recent gaffes regarding lack of diversity in the black community. These comments are much harder for some to overlook than others, and they come at a time where racial tension in the U.S is heightened. Biden needs an active black vote in order to win, yet the GOP is now using his own words against him as a tactic to not necessarily gain this vote, but at least stop African Americans from voting for him. African Americans need someone that they can count on, someone who has plans to make a change, and if Biden wants to win the black vote, earning their trust is the first step he must take.

For Times Media Mexico
Sydney Fowlkes
Pennsylvania, USA.

Sydney Fowlkes is a Pennsylvania-based writer and journalist whose work focuses on social and environmental news features.