…the Poor People’s Campaign released a groundbreaking report on the power of poor and low-income voters in the 2020 elections. Authored by Kairos Policy Director Shailly Gupta Barnes, the report demonstrates that low-income voters accounted for 35% of all votes in the Presidential election and even higher rates in battleground states. It also shows that the Poor People’s Campaign’s non-partisan low-income voter drive had a positive influence in turning our voters in key states. These findings have major implications for our national politics moving forward and the pressing need to ‘Wake the Sleeping Giant,’ as the title of the report urges us.
Our drive to mobilize, organize, register and educate poor and low-income people for a movement that votes is to build the necessary power to usher in an era of moral public policy that lifts from the bottom. On Monday, we held a National Town Hall that brought together policy experts, people of faith and leaders from the Poor People’s Campaign to discuss the need for a Third Reconstruction, a set of bold and visionary policies that will transform this nation.
We know that the myth of scarcity is upheld by those in power to deny those in need in order to consolidate their wealth. Our movement is building power to “make the power structure of this nation say yes, when they may be desirous of saying no,” as Dr. Martin Luther King instructed us.
** Waking the Sleeping Giant: Poor and Low-Income Voters in the 2020 Elections
“We have a governor and legislators who seem to care more about private profits than our lives and health. They care more about golfing and going to resorts than whether my children have heat or drinking water.”Denita Jones, Texas
“We are tired of being ignored and our lives left to those who claim to be for us, but who act against us.”Pamela Garrison, West Virginia
The 2020 presidential elections saw the highest voter turnout in U.S. election history, including among poor and low-income voters (LIV). Of the 168 million voters who cast a ballot in the general election, 58 million—or 35% of the voting electorate—were LIV. This cuts against common misperceptions that poor and low-income people are apathetic about politics or inconsequential to electoral outcomes.
To tap into the potential impact of these voters in the 2020 elections, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PPC:NCMR) launched a non-partisan voter outreach drive across 16 states. The drive targeted urban and rural areas and reached over 2.1 million voters, the vast majority of whom were eligible LIV. The drive had a statistically significant impact in drawing eligible LIV into the active voting electorate, showing that intentional efforts to engage these voters—around an agenda that includes living wages, health care, strong anti-poverty programs, voting rights and policies that fully address injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the war economy—can be effective across state borders and racial lines. Click Here to Download the Full Study KEY FINDINGS
- In the 2020 elections, LIV exceeded 20% of the total voting population in 45 states and Washington D.C. In tight battleground states, LIV accounted for an even greater share of the voting population, including in states that flipped party outcomes from 2016 to 2020.
- Where the margin of victory was near or less than 3%, LIV accounted for 34% to 45% of the voting population: Arizona (39.96%), Georgia (37.84%), Michigan (37.81%), Nevada (35.78%), North Carolina (43.67%), Pennsylvania (34.12%), and Wisconsin (39.80%).
- A closer look at the racial demographics of LIV in nine battleground states (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin) shows that white LIV accounted for a higher vote share than all other racial groupings of LIV combined. This underscores the necessity of organizing low-income white, Black, and Hispanic voters together in multi-racial political coalitions.
- PPC:NCMR’s massive voter outreach drive had a positive, statistically significant impact on its targeted population: LIV who were contacted by PPC:NCMR had a higher turnout rate than similarly positioned voters who were not contacted in those same states.
- In Georgia, PPC:NCMR’s voter outreach helped bring over 39,000 non-voters from 2016 into the 2020 elections, accounting for more than three times the final margin of victory for the presidential contest in the state. While we cannot say that this outreach was decisive in the election, it shows the potential impact that LIV can have on the electoral system if more directly engaged.
- To turn the opportunity to vote into a reality for LIV will require expanded efforts to increase both their registration and turnout on election day, such as automatic voter registration, same day registration, no-excuse mail in voting, early voting, more polling stations and extended and longer voting hours.
* LIV refers to poor and low-income voters, with an estimated household income of less than $50,000.1. Mapping the Participation of Low-income Voters in the 2020 Elections2. Racial Demographics of Low-income Voters in the Battleground States3. PPC:NCMR 2020 Voter Outreach Drive4. Organizing the Power of the Poor and Low-income Electorate Conclusion Download the Full Study