When the 2022 midterm elections arrive on November 8, 2022, Black women voters are expected to play a critical role in deciding who will become the next members of Congress and representatives. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that empowers people ages 50 and up. During the AARP and NNPA (National Newspaper Publishers Association) Media Roundtable that explored “Attitudes & Concerns Among Black Women 50+,” the specific demographic of African American women who are 50 or older became a focal point in the voting conversation. New research findings shed light on opinions and previous voting patterns of older Black women.
Although Black women voters are known to show up at the polls to cast ballots more than other groups, a mere “17% of Black women have made up their mind about who they will vote for in the 2022 election. Roughly half (53%) of these voters say they will not make their decisions until weeks or just days before the midterm election,” according to a press release citing research conducted by AARP, in partnership with pollsters.
This information is critical considering the powerful voting impact of older Black women. They are also known to mobilize their networks to vote.
“We know that voters aged 50 and older are the largest voting bloc in the country, and that women aged 50 and up are particularly critical cohort in elections. This is especially true for Black women who are one of the most active living blocs in the U.S. electorate,” Lisa Simpson, AARP’s Multicultural Engagement, Disparities and Equity Director said. “So while women aged 50 and over make up a quarter of (the) voting age population, they cast 30% of all ballots in the 2020 election, and more than eight in 10, or 83% registered women voters in this age group turned out to vote. Meanwhile, Black women are only about seven percent of the population, but have voted at or above 60% in the past five presidential cycles.”
Simpson added that a recent election survey for AARP Pennsylvania revealed that “79% of older Black women said that they are extremely motivated to vote in the upcoming midterm election.” Not seeing older Black women reflected in campaigns led AARP to create an initiative called “She’s the Difference” for exploring attitudes, fears and hopes of the demographic to enable elected leaders and political candidates to improve addressing their needs and important issues.
Research revealed that Black women voters 50 and older cite “racism” as “the number one problem facing the country,” according to Celinda Lake, who is a leading political strategist.
Lake added that future equal treatment for themselves, their families, and all people despite race or ethnicity is their number one aspiration. Concerns about their financial future and keeping up with rising cost of living were other noted points.
Specifically, “nearly two-thirds (63%) say rising prices are the most important thing to them personally when thinking about the economy, and (81%) are concerned about their income keeping up with rising costs,” per information that was provided in a press release.
Lake added that focus groups revealed that age discrimination; the economy; multigenerational caregiving responsibilities; and gun violence were other recorded findings that arose from surveying older Black women. She also pointed out that although Black women have been loyal to Democrats in elections, they still want them to earn their votes.
“They (Older Black women) are waiting to see what Democratic candidates are going to deliver, not just promise,” Lake said. “They don’t want to be taken for granted.”
The idea of older Black women feeling invisible and unheard by politicians was also echoed by pollster Christine Matthews, although they did express optimism.
“They don’t just have their opinion— they influence their friends and family a lot— and so they are disproportionately influentials,” Lake said.
She remarked that political candidates should be aware of this characteristic while seeking votes. Candidates should be talking to older Black women “today.”
“Women over 50 will make the difference in the 2022 elections,” Lake said, while mentioning that they are being ignored. “They are a third of the swing vote, and they are watching to see if candidates are listening to them, see them, and respect them. Within that, African American women are particularly vigilant, and it is a foolish candidate who ignores African Americans, particularly as a Democrat, who ignores African American women voters.”