02_Elements/Icons/ArrowLeft Back to Insight
Insights > Audiences

African-Americans Exercise Their Power at the Polls

2 minute read | November 2016

This year’s presidential election will likely be remembered as one of the most-talked about votes for years to come. And it follows another historic election where African-American voters flexed their political power in record numbers.

In the 2012 election, African-Americans had the highest rate of voter registration and election turnout of all races for the first time in history, surpassing non-Hispanic whites in election turnout at 66% versus 64%. Today, just under 29 million African-Americans are eligible to vote, representing 13% of U.S. eligible voters—a rate that’s growing 3.7% every two years. In fact, black voter turnout has steadily increased over the last three decades.

African-Americans remain invested in the pursuit of continued economic gains as well as advancing equality in their communities. African-American Millennials, in particular, have been catalysts of change, leveraging social media, mobile devices and various live-streaming platforms to amplify their voices about social justice issues. The use of technology to effect social and civic change is a manifestation of continued growth in grassroots political involvement in the African-American community.


If this year’s election follows the voting trends of the past, African-American women are poised to make their presence known at the polls. During the 2012 presidential election, more African-American women registered to vote (76%) and voted (70%) than black men (69% registered and 61% voted). In fact, African-American women of every age group with the exception of those 75+ surpassed registration and voting levels of black men.


While these are uncertain times, African-Americans are optimistic about the direction the country is headed. According to a March 2016 Harris Poll Survey, African-Americans were more optimistic than any other group about the future of the country: 49% of African-Americans said the country is headed in the right direction versus 45% of Hispanics, 42% of Asian-Americans and 23% of whites. But more there is considerable room for improvement. According to a July 2016 Harris Poll Survey, more than half of African-Americans (53%) said affordable housing and affordable, quality healthcare are community issues that need to be addressed. Additionally, 42% felt affordable childcare and college were important, and 39% said there is a need for affordable, healthy food.

The leaders of tomorrow will rise from today’s aspirational Millennials. In fact, 74% of African-American Millennials agree that they often find themselves in leadership roles, a rate that is 14% higher than total Millennials, and 48% of black Millennials agree that they strive for a high social status, 21% higher than total Millennials. African-American Millennials also have high career aspirations. Seventy-three percent of black Millennials say their goal is to make it to the top of their profession, 23% higher than total Millennials. With increasing opportunities, societal-leading civic participation, and expanding buying power, African-Americans, particularly the empowered Millennial generation, will continue to shape and influence American society in new and progressive ways.

For additional insight, download Nielsen’s Young, Connected and Black report.

Continue browsing similar insights

Our products can help you and your business

  • Consumer & Media View

    Access syndicated and custom consumer research that will help you shape successful brand, advertising and marketing…

  • NCSolutions

    Maximize CPG advertising effectiveness with data to better segment, optimize and enable sales-based outcomes.