Political participation amongst ethnic minorities

Obama supporters in New York, 2008
Obama supporters in New York, 2008

In the USA, as with many countries, the most economically disadvantaged citizens are often the least engaged with the political process. Ethnic minority groups in the USA are less likely to participate in politics compared to White Americans, who are more likely to stand as candidates, vote or campaign in elections. In the past, many politicians targeted their policies at the white majority which discouraged ethnic minorities from voting.

Barack Obama’s successful Presidential election campaigns in 2008 and 2012 energised black voters, with many people actively campaigning as well as voting. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers donated money, organised transportation to voting booths, took part in telephone messages, or simply posted the motivational message “Yes We Can”, on social media. 65% of Blacks voted in the 2008 Presidential election, the highest figure ever.

Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s Vice President and former Senator for California. She is the first Black and first Asian American Vice President, as well as being the first female Vice President.

Participation by those from ethnic minority backgrounds has continued to increase. The 117th Congress (from 2020 election) is the most racially and ethnically diverse in the history of the country with 23% from an ethnic minority background. The majority of these are members of the Democrat (83%).

In the House of Representatives, 13% of members are Black and 1% are Native Americans. This is equal to the share of the general population. However, those identifying as Hispanic are still under-represented, making up only 9% of the House.

Minorities and the political process

There are nine Supreme Court justices. In 2021, only two are from a minority group – Judge Clarence Thomas and Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

There are many people from ethnic minority groups who are city mayors including Randall Woodfin in Birmingham, Alabama.

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