Survey: Partisanship Declines among Younger Black Voters


A survey by the Suffolk University Political Research Center reveals a significant decline in partisanship among black Americans, a development that could have profound implications on the 2008 presidential election.

The study reveals that 35 percent of respondents ages 18-24 identified themselves as independents, while 41 percent of respondents ages 18-45 identified themselves as "politically independent” even though they are registered Democrats.

Young, black independents are emerging as a potentially crucial swing voting bloc in 2008 with the likely GOP nominee, John McCain widely known for his ability to attract independent voters and Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama locked in a contentious primary battle,

Obama would boost voter turnout

Twenty-five percent of respondents said that Obama’s candidacy would make them more likely to vote in the presidential election.

The survey was commissioned and co-written by political analyst Keli Goff and will be featured in her forthcoming book PARTY CRASHING: How the Hip-Hop Generation Declared Independence. The research focused exclusively on the demographic of young black Americans born after the civil-rights movement.

The Suffolk University Political Research Center conducted telephone interviews of young black Americans from Atlanta and Los Angeles in May 2007, asking questions about issues as diverse as politics and hip-hop.  The responses were totaled and analyzed based on area, gender, age, political philosophy and other indicators.

Changing views on leadership

On the subject of black leadership, a majority of respondents (51 percent) said that they do not believe in the need for a “black leader.” They did say that they most value the opinions of Barack Obama (20 percent), Oprah Winfrey (20 percent) and Colin Powell (15 percent). An overwhelming majority, (72 percent) said that they do not believe that noted black leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton speak for them.

Those polled cited the war in Iraq (26 percent) as the most important political issue of the day, followed by health care (13 percent), economic inequality (12 percent) and family values/morals (12 percent). Though an option, racial inequality was not selected by a significant number of respondents. 

Although respondents were mostly registered Democrats or Democratic leaning, a majority (51 percent) said that neither political party was addressing their issues. Additionally, 32 percent of respondents said that they do not believe “that the Democratic Party works as hard to earn the support of black voters as it does to earn the support of other groups of voters.”

Views on personal responsibility & Katrina

On the subject of class, a resounding majority (80 percent) of respondents agreed with Bill Cosby’s controversial comments regarding the issue of personal responsibility in the black community.

When asked about the government's inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, 22 percent of respondents said residents’ race was the defining factor; 22 percent said the response was determined by the class status of the residents; 23 percent blamed government incompetence; and 25 percent said all of the above.

PARTY CRASHING: How the Hip-Hop Generation Declared Independence features interviews with prominent leaders such as Powell, Russell Simmons, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Mayor Cory Booker, Congressman Artur Davis, NAACP Chair Julian Bond and Ken Mehlman, former chair of the Republican National Committee. It explores the cultural and political divide between black Americans of the civil rights generation and their children and grandchildren, known collectively as "the hip-hop generation." 
“Suffolk University is so pleased to be associated with the upcoming book Party Crashing,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.  "Goff recognizes there is a whole new generation of black voters who are declaring their political independence. With the 2008 Democratic nomination up for grabs between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the timing couldn’t have been scripted more brilliantly.”


The Suffolk University poll was conducted from May 14 to May 31, 2007, with results embargoed until the release of the book.  The margin of error is +/- 4.90 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The 400 respondents were black Americans 18-45 years of age from Atlanta (200) and Los Angeles (200). Each subset of 200 carries a margin of error of +/- 6.93 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Suffolk University is scheduled to release 196 pages of cross-tabulation data on its Political Research Center Web site on March 4, 2008.  For more information about the poll, contact Suffolk University adjunct professor David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.

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