Establishing a Political Agenda for African-Americans

Black Enterprise, July 1992 | Go to article overview

Establishing a Political Agenda for African-Americans

As the Democratic and Republican national conventions approach, B.E. readers speak out on the election-year issues that will decide their votes.

Four months ago, BLACK ENTERPRISE asked you, our readers, what the political agenda for African-Americans should be in 1992. As the nation prepares for the presidential elections in November, we thought we would give you an opportunity to send a message to politicians. Our survey, "Establishing A Political Agenda For African-Americans," (see BE, March 1992) asked for your opinions on a variety of political, economic and social issues. We asked you to assess some of the nation's most pressing problems and then decide which approaches might best alleviate them. We also asked your opinions on abortion and affirmative action.

The results indicate that our readers are not confident in the nation's current leadership. The results also show that the black community yearns for economic and social changes that will improve their quality of life. But even with the overriding political pessimism in the numbers, our survey respondents outline some strategies that they believe can help strengthen the nation.

Who Answered The Survey?

The typical respondent was 39.3 years old and well-educated. A healthy 70.4% had completed college, and 32.1% of that number had earned postgraduate degrees. Respondents seemed relatively well-off, with 43.7% having a total household income of more than $50,000. The average household income of all respondents was $50,800.

The respondents were 56.9% male and 43.1% female. Most (59.1%) were members of the Democratic Party. The second-largest political affiliation (24.7%) were independents. Interestingly, 7.1% said they were undecided about their political affiliation--a larger percentage than the 6.9% that were aligned with the Republican Party.

The age, income and education data suggests that those who completed our survey are like many Americans who will vote in this year's presidential, congressional and senatorial elections. Like other Americans, our readers no doubt have been affected by the anti-politician sentiment that has swept the nation. The increase in negative political campaigning; the check-bouncing scandal at the House bank in Washington, D.C.; tough economic times and other factors have created the impression that politicians are untrustworthy and inept. Disgusted voters have demanded term limits and have energized groups such as EMILY's List, a donor network for pro-choice Democratic women, to make drastic changes in the way government represents them. Clearly, some of this voter discontent is reflected in our survey results.

What's Most Important?

When asked to choose the top three issues of concern from a list of 10, education was clearly the number one priority for our survey respondents. Not only did 61.6% feel it will be the most significant issue facing African-Americans over the next four years, but 55.6% felt improving the nation's public education system should be the top priority for whoever wins the White House.

Respondents chose crime/drug abuse and the economy as the next two major concerns for African-Americans. A majority (51.3%) felt that addressing crime, drugs and other forms of substance abuse was critical, and 39.8% felt reviving the economy was most important. Interestingly enough, when choosing the top priorities for the nation, respondents also felt those two issues followed education in importance, but they changed the order. They voted 49.7% for stimulating the economy and 42.2% for reducing crime/enforcing the war on drugs.

Rating The Republicans

Six survey questions asked respondents to evaluate African-American progress in a variety of areas under Republican administrations during the past 12 years. The responses show the depth of black skepticism for a Republican-controlled White House.

In each of the following areas, the majority of respondents felt that there was only minimal progress or none at all. …

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