Focus Group Reveals Democrats 'Have a Lot of Work to Do' With Black Millennials

Image: A woman enters a voting booth to cast her vote at Vare Edwin Middle School in Philadelphia
A woman enters a voting booth to cast her vote at Vare Edwin Middle School on Nov. 8, 2016 in Philadelphia.Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images file

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By Mark Murray

PHILADELPHIA — “Angry," "exasperated," "worried," "stressed" and "scared" were the responses from back-to-back focus groups here of a combined 20 African-American millennials, who were asked to describe how they feel about American politics.

These young voters from a key 2016 battleground state also expressed deep pessimism about the political process and their voices in it.

"I feel like I can't make the impact I want," said a 25-year-old man who recently got his college degree.

"I'm outnumbered," said a 33-year-old female payroll analyst.

"I feel like Trump is tearing everything down," added a 24-year-old woman who's a front desk supervisor.

"I don't think what I have to say really matters," said an 18-year-old community college student. "I am a minority," the woman added.

“Our votes don’t really count,” said a 24-year-old professional dancer.

The focus groups were conducted Wednesday by Hart Research — the Democratic half of the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll — for the Democratic group Priorities USA and Color of Change. And the participants were a mixture of older millennials (25 to 34) and younger ones (18 to 24) who either voted in 2016 or didn't.

The comments from these African-American millennials expressing the feeling that they don’t have a voice in the political process were striking, especially given Pennsylvania’s importance in President Donald Trump’s 2016 win and the fact that Trump won the state by just 44,000 votes.

A woman enters a voting booth to cast her vote at Vare Edwin Middle School on Nov. 8, 2016 in Philadelphia.Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images file

"Clearly, we have a lot of work to do to motivate and mobilize these voters," said Patrick McHugh, Priorties USA's executive director.

“Folks don’t think their voice matters, regardless of if they live in a swing state,” McHugh added.

When asked to respond to Trump’s comment aimed at African Americans during the 2016 election — “What the hell do you have to lose?” — some of these millennials answered that they have had plenty to lose in the current political climate.

“My life,” replied a 34-year-old mother. “People can do whatever and say whatever — without punishment,” she said.

“We didn’t have much to begin with," said another participant.

These African-Americans expressed much more enthusiasm for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns than they did for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 bid, and many said it wasn’t due only to the color of Obama’s skin.

“He was someone I identified with, and seemed like a regular person who was doing extraordinary things,” said the 34-year-old mother.

Despite their pessimism about the state of American politics, many of the focus group participants said that Trump's presidency had motivated them to become more active. "A lot of black people don’t vote," said an 18-year-old male who's a community college student. "It is important — you got to get out and vote."

Asked if President Donald Trump endorsed a particular candidate, almost all of the participants immediately said they'd back the other candidate.

And none of them said the Republican Party was “for” people like them

“They haven’t made us a priority,” said a 22-year-old female student.

But they were divided about whether the Democratic Party was “for” them — or neither for nor against them.

“I think the Democratic Party took [our] votes for granted,” said one participant.