© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
TECHNOTE: 90.5 FM and AM870 reception

Political scientist shares Black voter concerns ahead of Michigan's midterm elections

Tiffany Tertipes
/
Unsplash

The number of Black Americans eligible to vote reached a record 30 million in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.

This midterm season, we’re checking in with a political scientist to see what Black voters’ top concerns are ahead of the Nov. 8 election in Michigan.

WKAR's Megan Schellong spoken with Ronald Brown, an associate professor at Wayne State University who specializes in race and politics about this community's priorities before heading to the polls.

Interview Highlights

On the issue driving African American voters to the poll this midterm election

The top issue, this election period for African Americans in Michigan is going to be inflation. And inflation, because a recent study by the New York Reserve Board found that Blacks and Latinos are paying more for gas, more for food, and the cost of living is higher for them. So, it’s going to drive many African Americans, I think to the polls this year in Michigan.

Where young and older African Americans stand on issues like healthcare and the economy

If you are someone my age who is either retired or moving to retirement, the costs of again, of food, living on fixed income, that's going to drive you to vote, if you are an older, African American. If you are younger, you know someone who's under 35, entering the workforce: economic opportunities, jobs, the availability of jobs and employment, that will drive people to vote.

On the different stances younger and older African American voters have on proposal 3

Another issue that's interesting that’s going to divide older and younger African Americans is proposal three, this question of reproduction rights, and the freedom of women having the freedom to decide because of the row of religious bodies, or going to a church or mosque, for older African Americans, that's going to emphasize the idea of, you know, the sacredness of the body that's been given to them by God, and that abortion is sinful. So I think you'll find more older African Americans saying that. And for younger African Americans, for those who have grown up in more diverse group settings, working in more diverse workplaces, they're going to vote I think, for proposal three.

Interview Transcript

Megan Schellong: The number of Black Americans eligible to vote reached a record 30 million in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.

This midterm season, we’re checking in with a political scientist to see what Black voters’ top concerns are ahead of the November 8th election in Michigan.

Ronald Brown is an associate professor at Wayne State University who specializes in race and politics.

Ronald, thanks for joining me.

Ronald Brown: Thank you Megan, for being here.

Schellong: Start us off, what is driving Black voters to the polls this election season?

Brown: The top issue, this election period for African Americans in Michigan is going to be inflation. And inflation, because a recent study by the New York Reserve Board found that Blacks and Latinos are paying more for gas, more for food, and the cost of living is higher for them. So, it’s going to drive many African Americans, I think to the polls this year in Michigan.

Schellong: Black voters helped propel Biden to his 2020 victory. What can we expect in terms of their support toward Democratic candidates this election season?

Brown: In Michigan, I think that what makes this an exciting election is that you're finding these questions of voter security, which was an issue in terms of ex-President Trump is still saying that he didn't lose the election. And so, this issue is driving candidates in our state, you know, who are running for statewide office. So, I think it is going to drive African Americans to the polls this time also, because of the importance of the vote for African American voters. This question of loyalty to the Democratic Party. It is out of necessity.

You're doing that because you and your family and friends are saying you know, the Republicans are saying the vote, that voting in Detroit, for example, in Philadelphia, there’s corruption there. That’s them snooping your sense of group identity and move you to vote for Democrats.

So inflation and voter security, that's going to drive people to vote for Whitmer who is running for the governor. And for I think, Jocelyn Benson, who's running for secretary of state; these two issues at the state level, are going to drive Black voters to vote.

Schellong: On what issues do younger and older Black voters differ?

Brown: Differ in terms of health care costs, if you are someone my age who is either retired or moving to retirement, the costs of again, of food, living on fixed income, that's going to drive you to vote, if you are an older African American. If you are younger, you know someone who's under 35, entering the workforce: economic opportunities, jobs, the availability of jobs and employment, that will drive people to vote.

Schellong: Where do these different age cohorts stand on proposals 2 and 3?

Another issue that's interesting that’s going to divide older and younger African Americans is proposal three, this question of reproduction rights, and the freedom of women having the freedom to decide because of the row of religious bodies, or going to a church or mosque, for older African Americans, that's going to emphasize the idea of, you know, the sacredness of the body that's been given to them by God, and that abortion is sinful. So I think you'll find more older African Americans saying that.

And for younger African Americans, for those who have grown up in more diverse group settings, working in more diverse workplaces, they're going to vote I think, for proposal three.

And also, what's driving that is the lower levels of church attendance among young African Americans also means that this question of sacredness versus natural rights divides the two.

Schellong: If you’re just joining us now, we’re speaking with Ronald Brown, a professor at Wayne State University about Black voter concerns ahead of the midterms. Ronald, where do you think Black voters will differ on proposal 2? Or is there an overarching agreement among Black voters on voting for it?

Brown: I think when it comes to proposal two, I think they all will. I think they all will because it's about group identity. It's about a racial group identity, and it doesn't matter in terms of if I'm 25, or 75. If there’s intimidation, when I go to vote. Not only vote, but if I go to drop my ballot in a drop box, and there are people standing around intimidating me, that's a problem. I'm going to say Megan, age cohort doesn't matter when it comes to voter security for African Americans.

Schellong: Which seats will be key to gaining more Black representation in the state legislature, courts and local boards?

Brown: For local seats, I think African American voters are going to vote for, I’ll say, county executives and sheriffs for saying that, "We are going to ensure that we have safety first, and we’re going to do less of things that would make racial in Black communities." So this question of safety, I think that’s going to be an issue in terms of voting for sheriffs at the county level.

And also I think in terms of courts, in terms of circuit courts that we have in the state, that I think that the voters are going to look at, what are people saying about the role of courts in terms of: do you provide probation first, or having someone sent to jail first? when it comes to someone, a young African American who has violated the law? So, I think in terms of the judges, I think that question and sheriff is going to be important.

Schellong: Ronald Brown is an associate professor at Wayne State University who specializes in race and politics. Thanks so much for being here.

Brown: Thank you, Megan.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Megan Schellong hosted and produced Morning Edition on WKAR from 2021 to 2024.
To help strengthen our local reporting as WKAR's fiscal year ends, we need 75 new or upgraded sustainers by June 30th. Become a new monthly donor or increase your donation to support the trustworthy journalism you'll rely on before Election Day. Donate now.