2020’s States with the Highest Political Engagement Among African Americans

Adam McCann, Financial Writer
Feb 19, 2020

While black voters turned out at the polls in unprecedented numbers during the 2008 and 2012 elections, black voter turnout fell during the 2016 presidential election. The winner of that election, Donald Trump, received approximately 8 percent of the black vote, compared to 88% for his rival Hillary Clinton.

This year, black voters will account for around 12 percent of the national electorate. However, they make up roughly 24 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, which means they will play a key role in selecting 2020’s Democratic nominee. A January poll shows Joe Biden with 48% support among black Democrats, far above the next closest, Bernie Sanders with 20%.

Regardless of what candidates black voters choose to support, it’s clear that black Americans in some states are more politically engaged than those in other states. Identifying where on the map this demographic is most politically active — and therefore likely to maximize their electoral clout — helps to put this election year and racial-gap issues into context.

In honor of Black History Month and with presidential primaries in full swing, WalletHub compared 49 states across six key metrics that speak to the level of black political engagement. Our data set includes black voter turnout and registration during the most recent presidential and midterm elections as well as the proportional representation of blacks in the state legislature and national party conventions. Scroll down for the complete ranking, expert political commentary and our detailed methodology.

Main Findings

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Overall Rank


Total Score

Overall Rank


Total Score

3South Carolina74.9028Idaho54.44
7New Jersey72.4932Arkansas47.81
11Virginia71.3736New Hampshire46.30
14Nevada70.6839New Mexico44.14
17New York68.7342Hawaii41.93
18North Carolina68.6343Rhode Island41.14
20Wisconsin66.0145West Virginia39.01
23Michigan63.6548North Dakota30.86
24Pennsylvania63.1749South Dakota30.61


Red States vs. Blue States


Political Engagement vs. Voter Eligibility

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Ask the Experts

Although the black voter-turnout rate in presidential elections rose since 1996 until the 2016 election, it remains lower in certain areas compared with others. In order to understand the reasons behind the low turnout and to find solutions to voting roadblocks for racial minorities, we turned to a panel of experts in fields such as political science and African-American studies. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. What accounts for low levels of voter turnout among African Americans?
  2. Do voter-ID laws disproportionately affect voter turnout for blacks relative to other groups?
  3. Why are blacks and other minorities underrepresented in political office? For example, there are currently only three African American senators and there have only been four black governors in U.S. history.
  4. What strategies have proven effective in increasing voter participation and civic engagement among African Americans?


In order to determine where black Americans are most politically engaged, WalletHub compared 49 states across six key metrics. Idaho and Montana were not included in the sample due to data limitations. The metrics are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was given a value between 0 and 100, wherein 100 is the best value for that metric and 0 is the worst.

We then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

  • Black Voter Turnout (2016 Presidential Election): Double Weight (~22.22 Points)
  • Black Voter Turnout (2018 Midterm Elections): Double Weight (~22.22 Points)
  • Black Voter Registration (2016 Presidential Election): Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
  • Black Voter Registration (2018 Midterm Elections): Full Weight (~11.11 Points)
  • Proportional Representation of Blacks in State Legislature (measures the percentage of black representatives per black population): Double Weight (~22.22 Points)
  • Proportional Representation of Blacks in National Party Conventions (measures the percentage of black delegates at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions per black population): Full Weight (~11.11 Points)

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Sources: Data used to create these rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and United States House of Representatives.

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