What is the ‘Black vote’ and why does it matter in 2020?

Minneapolis voters line up to vote
Minneapolis voters line up to vote a day ahead of Minnesota's Tuesday primary election on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, at the Minneapolis Election and Voters Services offices.
Jim Mone | AP Photo file

We’re weeks away from the 2020 presidential election, and both President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden are hoping to attract Black voters.

Black voters make up about 12 percent of the overall electorate, but they play a bigger role in some key states. According to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of Black Americans voted in 2016, a drop from 66 percent in 2012.

Even with that decline, Black Americans still turned out in higher numbers than other groups: In 2016, 49 percent of Asian Americans and 47 percent of Latinos voted, the Pew study showed. 

Black Minnesotans rank highest in political engagement among Black voters in the country, according to research by WalletHub.

Despite these numbers, Black votes aren’t guaranteed, and Black voters aren’t a monolith. With three expert guests, MPR News host Angela Davis discussed why the myth of the Black vote persists.


  • Maya King is a politics reporter at Politico.

  • Leslie Redmond is the president of the Minneapolis NAACP.

  • Catherine Squires is associate dean of the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Correction (Oct. 20, 2020): A previous version of this story listed Catherine Squires’ old title. The story has been updated with her new title.

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