Black California Voters Could Not Care Less About Immigration and Climate Change; Racism and Homelessness Higher Priorities

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Policies like climate change and illegal immigration don’t poll high among Black voters in California because they have bigger issues to worry about, a recent poll suggests.

The California African American Policy Priority Survey found the two issues, which rank very high for the general population, are not top priorities for African-American voters.

Black Californians are more concerned about rampant homelessness, police brutality, and access to quality health care.

The telephone poll, led by the African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation Project (AAVREP), surveyed 800 registered Black voters in Los Angeles, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area between May 5 and 17. Pollsters focused on participants in either of the last two primary or general elections.

Ninety-three percent of respondents identified homelessness as a high priority for elected officials to address, and 88 percent said homelessness was a serious problem in their region

California leads the country’s homeless population. The Golden State accounts for more than a third of chronically homeless Americans, according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department figures. Nearly 15 percent of these individuals live in the city of Los Angeles.

Experts have attributed the homelessness epidemic to the state’s excessively high housing costs. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office reports the average California home costs $440,000, more than twice the national average home price of $180,000. The average monthly rent in California is about $1,240, 50 percent higher than the rest of the country at 840 per month.

Black Californians are also concerned about police brutality, with 93 percent naming accountability for law enforcement agencies guilty of using excessive force, police violence, and police brutality as a high priority for elected officials to address.

The African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation (AAVREP) Project commissioned the May poll of Black California voters. Courtesy AAVREP.
The African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation (AAVREP) Project commissioned the May poll of Black California voters. Courtesy AAVREP.

Ninety percent of Black voters indicated that reforming the criminal justice system and eliminating racial profiling are both high priorities.

The San Francisco Police Department is currently under intense scrutiny. Dozens of racist text messages sent between department officers have emerged as part of an ongoing federal corruption investigation. SFPD Officer Jason Lai resigned in April after federal prosecutors uncovered a series of offensive texts, such as “I hate that beaner, but I think the nig is worse”, and “They’re like a pack (of) wild animals on the loose,” on a night of heated protests in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, according to CNN .

Seventy-two percent of California respondents viewed the Black Lives Matter favorably, a movement inextricably tied to the civil unrest brought on by high-profile deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement officials.

Public education improvement was ranked as a high priority by 96 percent of African-American voters. Non-profit magazine, Education Week rated California schools 42nd among states based on education funding, K-12 academic achievement, early education participation, and other key performance indicators.

Other high priorities included improving access to quality health care (95 percent), expanding access to mental health services (92 percent), and affordable housing (94 percent).

The May poll also measured voters’ opinions on federal and state election candidates.

Results indicate that a majority of African-American voters in California are backing Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Presidential Primary.

Seventy-one percent of Black voters said they would support Hillary Clinton, while Bernie Sanders got just 16 percent of the vote. The numbers were drastically different for Democratic Primary voters under the age of 40, however, as 50 percent of them indicated support for Sanders and only 34 percent were for Clinton.

Should the national ticket come down to Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump, 80 percent of Black voters said they would choose Clinton in the November 8 Presidential Election contest. Just 7 percent indicated support for Trump, while 4 percent said that they would support another candidate or remain undecided (5 percent).

Though most Black Californians remain loyal to the Democratic Party, 58 percent said they feel the establishment takes them for granted.

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