It’s fairly rare to find a nonpartisan national elections poll “centering the very real experiences of Black women,” but The Highland Project did just that. The Amsterdam News had a sit-down with the founder, Gabrielle Wyatt, to talk about their findings.
“I’m not a pollster,” said Wyatt. She said she began the journey into research because she couldn’t find recommendations on Black women pollsters at a time in the country where everything was racially and politically charged. Wyatt said she left her career in education in New Jersey in 2020 to find a level of accountability in the nation’s brief obsession with Black Lives Matter issues through data and findings.
“I wasn’t actually seeing action. I was just seeing a lot of rhetoric. I was thinking about what does it really look like to create a solution that results in thriving Black communities,” said Wyatt. “To me that was Black women leaders who are powerful and impactful. Having tremendous political power.”
The Highland Project began in October 2020 as a nonprofit, with the intention of gathering new research with Black women at the core since they are a demographic that is considered the “driving force” behind many communities and institutions. An interest in attaining the Black vote often translates into Black women who vote, said Wyatt. The other key component to Wyatt’s research is a focus on the racial wealth gap.
“Not Another Box to Check” is the second national research project from the Highland Project of about 766 Black women, conducted by ‘brilliant corners Research and Strategies’ company and fellow Black pollster Cornell Belcher.
“We decided this year to do it again because we want to continue to listen, stay honest, but most importantly, as we were watching us into year two of the project, we realized that we don’t think the needle had moved that much,” said Wyatt. “We don’t think the rhetoric has turned into action.”
The poll asked women about issues like Roe v. Wade, what they think about the state of the country, and what kind of candidates they’d vote for.
According to the report the Highland Project put out in June, about “79% of Black women surveyed oppose the overturning of Roe, and 88% say it makes them more motivated to vote.” There is also an “information gap” issue about abortion and reproductive rights, particularly in the South and among Black women who are least likely to vote, said the report.
The report also says about 57% of Black women polled say that the country’s economic conditions are “getting worse” and that their own wages are falling behind the cost of living.
“On economic anxiety, which is quite stark to last year’s, is how much pressure all Black women we spoke to were feeling in the economy,” said Wyatt about the standout finding. “Everyone’s saying, it’s not just that the economy’s not heading in the right direction but I feel left behind.”
Wyatt said this economic anxiety was more pronounced with millennial and Gen-Z Black women demographics.
“This is in addition to this full issue plate that we saw this time around,” said Wyatt. “That it’s more than one issue that’s weighing us down as Black women. I’ll say for me as a Black woman, to me, that means we’re carrying multiple weights of oppression that have not been addressed. That has not substantively been addressed.”
Among the highest concerns for Black women was inflation and the cost of goods, police reform, voting rights, health care, women’s reproductive rights, college affordability and improving K-12 education.
Strictly speaking politics, the report finds that 8-in-10 Black women will definitely vote but younger Black women show a “reluctance” to vote in midterms. Black women’s satisfaction with the direction the country is moving in “has absolutely plummeted” since March 2021. They are also “intensely dissatisfied” with Congress and President Joe Biden is currently at a 28% approval rating among those polled.
The report finds that Black women “absolutely still care” about racism and discrimination and look for leaders who lean into addressing systemic racism explicitly, especially in schools and classrooms.
Across the political spectrum, the report finds that Black women have a low positive association with the economy, police reform, and crime. And about 52% of Black women prefer a candidate focused on racial discrimination and rights rather than just the economy, said the report.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w