Polls show U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) taking the lead with key constituencies ahead of Wednesday’s first Democratic presidential debate.
She the People, a national political network of women of color, released a straw poll Tuesday showing nearly 50 percent of respondents backed Warren as their first choice for president, up from 22 percent of respondents in December. The poll from June found voting rights to be the issue of greatest concern to She the People respondents—all women of color leaders—followed by police violence, access to reproductive health care, and climate change.
Polls released by NextGen America and MoveOn also show Warren gaining ground. MoveOn, with millions of members nationwide, ranked the three qualities most needed in candidates as inspiring the public with deep progressive values; making the connections between racial, social, and economic justice; and prioritizing reversing President Donald Trump’s hate-fueled, xenophobic, anti-Muslim and racist policies.
Straw polls are not necessarily predictive of electoral outcomes but can be useful in providing a sense of momentum. These three polls contrast with national polling that continues to show former Vice President Joe Biden as the frontrunner. But the straw polls conducted by She the People, NextGen America, and MoveOn suggest the issues that animate the most engaged voters and those who do the work necessary to galvanize massive voter turnout.
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“Candidates looking to win the Democratic nomination should listen to the issues that women of color care about,” Aimee Allison Moyer, founder of She The People, said in a statement. “Addressing our issues, both on the debate stage and in policy platforms, is the key to selecting a candidate who will mobilize and expand the base.”
Black women and women of color generally are a driving force in electoral and organizing work and are at the forefront of merging electoral organizing and transformational action for change.
It is no surprise that women of color identify voting rights as the major issue nationwide. This will be the second presidential election cycle since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Battles continue to be fought around gerrymandering, voter suppression, and targeting of Black and brown organizers in states such as Georgia, alongside recent efforts in Tennessee and Texas to undermine voter registration.
All three polls show that progressive voters are engaging and paying attention. The polls also suggest that more voters are committed to transformative policies meant to meet several crises, ranging from student debt to voter disenfranchisement to climate change, rather than a return to a mythical past.
And it’s clear at least some candidates are focused on the future: The polls came out as Warren joined with Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro to call for the decriminalization of migration. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) this week introduced a plan to cancel all student debt. Warren and numerous other candidates have called for renewed efforts to protect and expand voting rights. Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has an aggressive plan to address climate change. These policy proposals and others suggest Democratic voters might finally get what has been lacking in politics: a choice between numerous candidates all devoted to transformative change.