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Young Women of Color: Politically Active And Strongly Behind Biden

Young women of color overwhelmingly disapprove of President Trump, but most disapprove of Joe Biden too even as they plan to vote for him.

In recent years, young women of color have been at the forefront of youth activism and electoral politics in the United States, particularly as a major constituency for the Democratic Party. In 2016, young Black and Latina women were the strongest supporters of Secretary Hillary Clinton. In 2018, young women of color were the most likely to say that they considered themselves part of a social movement, and young Black and Latina women in particular were the most likely to say they felt motivated to get politically involved.

Our exclusive pre-election polling shows that engagement and enthusiasm has carried into 2020. In previous analyses, we have found that young women of color (ages 18-21) have been the most likely group of youth—across race/ethnicity and gender—to attend marches or demonstrations this Spring and Summer.

As we take a deeper dive into the political attitudes and participation of young women of color in 2020, we find:

  • Young women of color are much more likely to support Joe Biden than President Trump—though the level of support varies among young women of different ethnicities. Conversely, the highest level of support Trump receives among young women comes from White women.
  •  Black women show the highest approval rates of Biden, with 37% responding that they approve or strongly approve of the Democratic candidate. Asian women have the lowest rate of Biden approval: 20%
  • Half of young women of color are paying at least some attention to the election, and young women of color are twice as likely to be contacted by a Democratic campaign than a Republican campaign
  • Like other youth, a substantial percentage of young women of color—young Latinas in particular—need more information about online voter registration and mail-in voting

About the Poll: The first wave of the CIRCLE/Tisch College 2020 Youth Survey was fielded from May 20 to June 18, 2020. The survey covered adults between the ages of 18 and 29 who will be eligible to vote in the United Stated by the 2020 General Election. The sample was drawn from the Gallup Panel, a probability-based panel that is representative of the U.S. adult population, and from the Dynata Panel, a non-probability panel. A total of 2,232 eligible adults completed the survey, which includes oversamples of 18- to 21-year-olds (N=671), Asian American youth (N=306), Black youth (N=473), Latino youth (N=559) and young Republicans (N=373). Of the total completes, 1,019 were from the Gallup Panel and 1,238 were from the Dynata Panel. Unless stated otherwise, ‘youth’ refers to those ages 18- to 29-years old. The margin of error for the poll, taking into account the design effect from weighting, is +/- 4.1 percentage points. Margins of error for racial and ethnic subgroups range from +/-8.1 to 11.0 percentage points.

Young Women of Color Support, but Don’t Approve of, Joe Biden

Overall, 60% of young women in our poll say that they plan to support Joe Biden in the 2020 election—barely higher than the 59% of all youth who chose Biden in our poll. But support for Biden is higher among young women of color (67.5%); across race/ethnicity it ranges from 77% among young Asian women and 71% among young Black women, to 61% among young Latinas and 54% among young White women. Nearly a quarter (23%) of young White women are supporting President Trump—by far the highest of any racial/ethnic group of young women.

However, the intention to cast a vote for Joe Biden does not necessarily signal that young women of color view him positively. In fact, only 30% of young women of color approve or strongly approve of Biden. Young Black women approve or strongly approve of Biden most (37%), and young Asian women approve or strongly approve of Biden the least (20%).

On the other hand, disapproval of President Trump among young women is extraordinarily high (81%), and among young women of color it is nearly universal. A staggering 94% of young Asian women disapprove of the President, as do 88% of young Latinas and 85% of young Black women. Trump gets similarly low marks from young women of color for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paying Attention to the Election; Hearing from Campaigns and Organizations

Our 2020 pre-election poll found that three-quarters of youth say they’re paying some or a lot of attention to the election. That number is the same for young women of color, but as with support for Biden there is variation by race/ethnicity. Young Asian women are the most likely to say they’re paying at least “some” attention to the election (84%). Meanwhile, almost 30% of young Latinas say they’re paying “a lot” of attention to the presidential election, the highest among any racial/ethnic group of young women.

That said, parties, campaigns, and organizations often fail to leverage young people’s interest in the election by contacting and engaging them. That seems to be the case again this year, though it varies widely among young women by race/ethnicity. Our poll found that, as of May/June, less than half (47.5%) of all youth, ages 18-29, had been contacted at least once by a campaign or party this election cycle. That rate of contact is slightly higher for young women (ages 18-29): 51%. Only 42% of young Asian women and 46% of young White women had been contacted by a political campaign or party, compared to 57% of young Black women and 64% of young Latinas who had been contacted—perhaps speaking to the latter two groups’ strong support for Democratic candidates in recent elections. In fact, more than a third (36%) of young Latinas had already been contacted multiple times by this summer; our research has previously found that hearing from parties or campaigns more than once is associated with higher voter turnout.

As with all youth, campaign outreach to young women of color is not equal by party: 52% of all young women of color had been contacted at least once by the Democratic Party, compared to just 25.5% of young women who were contacted by the GOP. Interestingly, while 9% of young Latinas say they’ve been contacted only once by Republicans this election cycle, 20% say they’ve been contacted more than once, which may suggest that the Party is trying to actively court this key demographic. By contrast, 13% of young Black women said they had been contacted once by the GOP, and 12% said they had been contacted by Republicans more than once. Close to one in five young women (18%) said they have been contacted by an independent candidate.

Political parties and campaigns are not the only ways young people hear about elections. About one in five young women (19%) say they’ve been contacted by a local youth organization, and young women of color were more likely to report being contacted by such a group. An even higher percentage (29%) of young women say they’ve been contacted by a (non-youth serving) community organization in the area, including 38% of Black women and 34% of young Latinas.

Despite Contact, Critical Knowledge Gaps on 2020 Voting Process

Reaching out to young people during election cycles is not just important for encouraging them to vote or persuading them to support a candidate, but for providing critical information about the logistics of voter registration and of actually casting a ballot. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the various restrictions on in-person activities drastically reshaping the landscape of electoral processes, that kind of information is even more crucial—and lacking.

There are substantial disparities between young women of different races/ethnicities in access to information relevant to this year’s election cycle. A majority of young people have never voted by mail before. While most youth have seen at least some information about how to vote by mail (VBM) or cast an absentee ballot, many have not, including 30% of young Black women and 27% of young Latinas. That’s twice the rate of young Asian women (14%) who say they haven’t seen information on voting by mail, though that may in part be due to the high proportion of Asian populations who live in states where VBM has been widely used. Likewise, 30% of young Black women said they would not even know where to get information about casting a mail-in ballot.

Many election officials and youth engagement stakeholders are counting on online voter registration (OVR) to fill the gap left behind by in-person voter registration efforts that may be verboten during the pandemic. While there’s incredible potential in OVR, the fact that young people are digital natives does not automatically make them aware of or comfortable with registering to vote this way. Our polling has illustrated this concern; only half of all youth correctly identified whether their state has OVR. On this metric, young Black women actually do best: 68% correctly identified whether online voter registration was available in their state. Meanwhile, 28% of young Latinas said “I don’t know” when asked if their state had OVR—another 25% said they did or didn’t but were incorrect.

These and other disparities in information, access, and outreach threaten to perpetuate or exacerbate racial/ethnic inequities in youth political engagement. While young women of color have more than proven their passion for social change and their desire to participate in elections, they still need and deserve support to ensure they vote in 2020 and continue shaping American democracy for years to come.


Authors: Noorya Hayat, Abby Kiesa, Alberto Medina