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May 25, 2000 Contact: Melissa Ring (617) 496-9761

African Americans Pay Less Attention, Say Campaign Is Less Relevant

Survey Methodology

African Americans have been less attentive to the presidential campaign than white Americans. They are also less likely to believe that the outcome of the election will make much difference in their lives.

Campaign invovlement by race

Black and white Americans alike have a critical view of politicians and the political process, according to weekly Shorenstein Center national polls. Nearly 90% of each group believes that "most presidential candidates will say whatever it takes to get elected." And roughly 75% of black and white Americans agree that "politics in America is generally pretty disgusting."

But they differ in their view of the importance of the campaign. Black Americans are much more likely than white Americans (27% to 16%) to claim that the outcome of the election will have no effect on their daily lives. "Even though 27% of African-Americans still think the outcome of the election will have no effect on their lives, it is a fact that more African-Americans are now engaged in politics than previously," says Marvin Kalb, co-director of the Vanishing Voter Project and the Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center's Washington Office.

  Voter Involvement Index
May 17-21 16%
May 10-14 20%
May 3-7 18%
Apr. 26-30 18%
Apr. 18-22 20%
Apr. 12-16 19%
Source: Shorenstein Center Poll
Sampling error: ±6%

African Americans are less involved in the campaign than white Americans on a day-to-day basis. Since early November, the Shorenstein Center has asked Americans in its weekly national poll whether they are thinking about the campaign, talking about it, and paying attention to campaign news. By each indicator, blacks were significantly less involved in the campaign. "African Americans are less attentive to campaign politics," says Thomas Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and co-director of the Vanishing Voter Project. "Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, given the country’s political history and the lingering belief among many blacks that their lives won’t change much, regardless of who wins."


The results reported here are from nationwide telephone surveys of approximately 1,000 adults conducted November 14, 1999 May 21, 2000. The surveys have a sampling error of ±3%. The Vanishing Voter Project is a study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Funding for the project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The project is co-directed by Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government & the Press at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, and by Marvin Kalb, Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center's office in Washington.

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