Commentary: Blacks Lead Liberalism in L.A.

Commentary: Blacks Lead Liberalism in L.A.

Commentary: Blacks Lead Liberalism in L.A.

New exit polls from the city of Los Angeles show that African-American voters were some of the most progressive on issues ranging from taxes to food safety.

Published November 13, 2012

Most people like to look at exit polls to see what subgroups of citizens voted for which presidential or congressional candidate. This year, for instance, Blacks, like Latinos and Asians, voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama for president. But one new exit poll out of Los Angeles also looked at what other kinds of things African-Americans voted for in California this year, and the results might surprise you.

The poll is a project out of Loyola Marymount University’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles, and it showed that L.A.’s African-Americans are in some ways leading the charge of liberalism in California. Ninety-nine percent of Black voters in L.A. went for Obama, of course, but Blacks’ progressiveness went above and beyond that. African-Americans, for instance, supported proposed tax increases by a large margin:

Los Angeles' African American voters voiced the strongest support for Prop 30's combined income and sales tax with four out of every five black voters polled saying they voted for Prop 30. About three-quarters of Latinos supported Prop 30. 

The other major tax issue, Prop 38, which would have increased taxes on the highest income residents, failed statewide. However, 56 percent of the Black voters polled in Los Angeles said they favored it. Support for the measure was in the 40s for Asians and Latinos, and got only 29 percent support among the poll's white voters.

When it came to the ballot initiative that would have banned the death penalty in California, which ultimately failed, 70 percent of L.A.’s Blacks voted to ban it, while just 45 percent of Asians and 63 percent of whites and Latinos agreed.

Some might say it’s no big surprise African-Americans vote liberally when it comes to the criminal justice system, which has a history of racially problematic decisions. But what about the fact that Blacks also led the way in L.A. when it came to voting on food labeling? The LMU poll found that a large majority — 68 percent — of Black voters supported Proposition 37, a failed initiative that would have required food producers to label genetically modified foods as such. By contrast, only a little more than half of L.A.’s white, Latino and Asian voters supported Prop 37.

An ancient conservative talking point, and one that still exists today, says that the reason Black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats is because the Democratic Party gives black people handouts. But that’s just not true. What these numbers show us is that the reason Blacks support the Democrats is because left-of-center politicians generally favor the issues important to Blacks, which, obviously, can include everything from criminal justice tragedies to healthy food.

What these numbers also say is that if you're a politician of either party who thinks you can win over Blacks by playing up one issue heavily, you do so at your own peril.

The issues here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Written by Cord Jefferson


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