Voter Turnout & Access

Focus Groups: BIPOC Voter Attitudes Toward Voting Methods


Public Wise contracted project manager Amanda Luz Henning Santiago to lead the partnership with Schlesinger Group. Twelve two-hour focus groups with 85 respondents in total were conducted during the week of August 10, 2020.

Focus groups were an effort to layer context to the polling on BIPOC attitudes around voting and to determine the type of language, imagery and messaging that compels AAPI, Black and Latinx voters to vote.

Areas of Focus

  • 2 groups of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters in Gwinnett, Dekalb and Fulton counties in Georgia, moderated by Tricia Juhn of Encanto Strategy (14 respondents in total)
  • 2 groups of Latinx voters each in Arizona and Pennsylvania, moderated by Dr. Ines Poza of Poza Consulting (25 respondents in total)
  • 2 groups of Black voters each in Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, moderated by Michael A. Smith II of Smithmark, LLC (46 respondents in total)

Parameters for respondents:

  • Between 18 and 65
  • Registered, likely voter
  • 50% mix of male and female
  • 50% mix of college and non-college degree holders

Voting Plans

  • The majority of respondents plan to vote in person on election day, as they deem it the most secure mode of voting, opposed to mail0in or absentee ballots.
  • Most voters have more experience with in-person voting and are less familiar with other modes of voting, which has also contributed to in-person voting being the default voting method for most.
  • Participants lack trust in the USPS and the COVID-19 crisis have the most significant impact on participant plans to vote.

The COVID-19 Effect

  • Most respondents were dedicated to voting at the polls early or on Election Day.
  • Those planning to vote at the polls on November 3 said they will bring their masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
  • Despite potential crowding and long lines, respondents felt voting did not pose a greater risk than anything else they normally do, like going to work or to a store.


Focus on the threads that connect respondents

A sense of community, obligation, honor, and duty are all things that resonate with voters on a personal level and emotionally connect them with the act of voting.

Educate voters on various voting methods

Most voters were unfamiliar with the various procedures and protocols associated with voting methods other than voting in-person on Election Day. As respondents learned more about early and mail-in voting, they became more at ease with the options and gave them more consideration as viable voting options.

Reinforce the notion: Your Vote Counts

A significant number of respondents felt unsure of whether or not their vote will truly count, which makes the act of voting less exciting. Reminding voters of the importance of their vote could prove to be motivating.

AAPI Voters

  • Voting is associated with duty and difficulty. Respondents made transactional associations with the act of voting. They did not view voting as part of a larger fabric of building a country or future. However, nearly every respondent was dedicated to voting in the upcoming election. While respondents were open to other voting methods, they felt most confident their vote would be counted if they voted in person.
  • All 14 AAPI respondents said they preferred to be contacted in English; most felt they would be suspicious of any political materials in an AAPI language. Respondents agreed that Spanish is the main language to add to voting materials.

Latino Voters

  • Respondents have lost a significant amount of trust in the voting system, especially after 2016.
  • Most plan to vote in person on Election Day, generally confident their votes will be counted. They are concerned about mail-in ballots being counted properly. Voters also feel their vote is more valuable in smaller, local elections than in federal or presidential elections.
  • Most respondents look to several different sources to learn about candidates and ballot measures, including Google, social media, newspapers and talking to their peers.

Latino Voters in Pennsylvania

  • Voting is viewed as an event where people get a chance to be with their community, not about having a dialogue about differences.
  • Both groups of respondents generally felt confident about the voting system counting their votes accurately, though respondents were suspicious about voting by mail. Their main concerns were about legitimacy of mail-in voting but they would vote by mail if it was their only option.

Latino Voters in Arizona

  • Respondents are committed to voting in the upcoming election but have lower confidence in the voting system and are more likely to be deterred in future elections.
  • Respondents are planning on voting in-person as it gives them a sense of security and accomplishment.
  • Voters lacked confidence in mail-in voting and were confused over the differences between absentee and mail-in ballots. However, learning you can track your ballot in the mail and receive updates was a game-changer for some. Respondents also responded positively to using UPS or FedEx to mail their ballots as it gave them a sense of accuracy and certainty of delivery.
  • Neither group was aware that early in-person voting existed.

Latinx Voter Stimuli Response

  • Many had difficulty hearing the subject in the video.
  • Reading text felt impersonal which made the message fall flat.
  • Respondents suggested including language to encourage voters to head to the polls and to address the benefits of voting.
  • Respondents asked for an option to hear the message in Spanish, suggesting bilingual materials show an earnest interest in  reaching out to Latino voters.
  • Overall respondents did not like this ad, regardless of how they feel about Trump and viewed it as a smear campaign and emotionally manipulative.
  • The physical violence turned off a lot of people, although there was a portion of respondents that found it somewhat comical.
  • Everyone said they were against Trump but feel they can’t accept any ad at face value anymore.

Black Voters

  • All respondents are extremely dedicated to voting and feel their vote is immensely valuable.
  • Most respondents plan to vote in-person on election day or during early vote. Since the last presidential election, the majority of respondents shared concern their vote might not be counted due to the current administration.
  • Southern voters see voting as a way to honor their ancestors and relatives. They consider going to the polls as a valuable teaching moment for their children, while those in Pennsylvania viewed voting as more of an obligation.

Black Voters in Pennsylvania

  • Respondents feel their vote is valuable despite having minimal trust in the voting system, over concerns the current presidential administration will try to interfere with the election.
  • All but one respondent plans on voting in person, as in-person voting is considered much more secure than mail-in voting. While the group considered mail-in voting to be the easiest mode of voting, they don’t want to risk their vote being tossed out.

Voters enjoy speaking with friends to learn more about candidates and ballot measures, as well as attending town halls and political debates.

Black Voters in North Carolina

  • While both groups expressed cynicism over the U.S. voting system, the second group had no trust in the system whatsoever since the last presidential election and feared the possibility of foreign interference in the general election from Russia or China. However, most respondents felt confident their vote will be counted despite concerns over the system’s reliability.
  • Participants feel their vote is very valuable but more so in local elections versus federal or presidential elections.
  • Most voters are planning to vote in-person on election day due to a lack of trust in the mail-in ballot system.

Respondents like to learn about candidates and ballot measures by doing their own online research, print newspapers, debates and town halls.

Black Voters in Georgia

  • The first group had very little trust in the voting system as they believe there is corruption in the system based on what they’re seeing in the news.
  • The second group had much more trust in the system though they remained skeptical as to how it operates. Both groups feel their vote is extremely valuable.
  • Neither group felt confident using absentee or mail-in ballots, although some believed they were more likely to be counted in local elections.
  • The second group felt more confident their votes will be counted now that the Black Lives Matter movement has grown and the country has  better understanding of the voter suppression that takes place in the U.S.
  • Respondents found the post to be informative, but were suspicious of its targeting of Black voters.
  • Many felth the ad was more for first time or young voters than seasoned voters.
  • No one liked the color combination, two respondents suggested using black, red and green which are the colors of the Pan-African flag.
  • Some felt the post put undue pressure on Black voters to get out and vote.
  • Voters expressed concerns that a national Black voter day would make it easier to meddle with Black votes.
  • There was some confusion around the dates and many felt the slides were too wordy.
  • Respondents had trouble reading the crowded text at the bottom.
  • Many voters said they would scroll past this on Instagram.
  • Many preferred another color scheme to red, white & blue.
  • Participants liked that the post pertained to everyone and not just Black voters.
  • Put date and time together.
  • Respondents were confused by the logos.

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