WASHINGTON (AP) — When it comes to picking a new president, young people in America are united in saying education is what matters most. But there’s a wide split in what else will drive their votes.
For African-American adults between the ages of 18 and 30, racism is nearly as important as education. For young Hispanics, it’s immigration. And for whites and Asian-Americans in the millennial generation, it’s economic growth.
The results from the new GenForward poll highlight big differences among young Americans who often are viewed as a monolithic group of voters — due in no small part to their overwhelming support for President Barack Obama during his two campaigns for president.
GenForward is a survey by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research . The first-of-its-kind poll pays special attention to the voices of young adults of color, highlighting how race and ethnicity shape the opinions of the country’s most diverse generation.
Among the most striking findings: Young African-Americans are significantly more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to say racism is a top issue when it comes to choosing a candidate for president. A third of blacks between 18 and 30 chose racism as one of the top issues that will affect their votes, nearly tied with education and ahead of both health care and economic growth.
Lakevia Davis, 24, of Montgomery, Alabama, said the toll from the police shootings in the past few years has moved race to the top for her and other young blacks.
“The civil rights movement was only 50 years ago, but we’re still fighting the same fight,” she said. “It’s a just as big a deal for other races, but it’s just not as public as it is for us.”
Cathy Cohen, a professor at the University of Chicago and the principal investigator of the Black Youth Project, said African-American youth seem to feel the sting of racism more often and are more likely to call it a major problem.
In the poll, 8 in 10 young African-Americans called racism a major problem. They were joined by 3 in 4 young Hispanics, more than 3 in 5 Asian-Americans and a little more than half of young whites.
That’s “a pretty significant difference” between blacks and whites, she said.
The poll was taken before last week’s slayings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two black men whose deaths were captured on video, and the shooting deaths of five police officers in Dallas that followed. Before the gunman in Dallas was killed, he said he wanted revenge for the killings of blacks by police.
Police brutality was chosen by 2 in 10 young African-Americans as a top issue in their choice for president, far more than young Hispanics, Asian-Americans and whites.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has made race inequality a central theme of her candidacy. She said Tuesday she wants to develop national guidelines on the use of police force and to provide training on “implicit bias.”
Trump has framed his response to the issue in largely economic terms, and the GenForward poll found unemployment was almost as important an issue to young African-Americans as police brutality.
“Jobs can solve so many problems,” Trump said this week in an interview with The Associated Press. “And we’re going to open our country up and we’re going to be a huge jobs producer again instead of having terrible jobs.”
But Todd Shaw, a political science professor at the University of South Carolina, said some of Trump’s political rhetoric may have driven young black adults to put racism at the top of their list of issues.
“When young African-Americans hear that Mexican-Americans or Muslims are outsiders or should be barred from the country or are seen as rapists, particularly given the liberal leanings of younger African-Americans, they will read that as you are against all persons who are different” from whites, he said.
The poll showed major support for the Black Lives Matter movement among African-Americans polled — 84 percent.
Support for Black Lives Matter polled at 68 percent for Asian-Americans, 53 percent for Hispanics and 41 percent for whites.
“Over time, things change and get better, but it’s not there yet,” said 29-year-old Galen Mosher of Portland, Oregon, who is white and supports Black Lives Matter.
“If we can’t have some kind of understanding … then we can’t build the trust,” he said.
The poll of 1,965 adults age 18-30 was conducted June 14-27 using a sample drawn from the probability-based GenForward panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. young adult population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
The survey was paid for by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago using grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.
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