Political participation among California communities of color dismal, report finds

FILE: A new report finds that white Californians join protests at greater rates than African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos in the state.
FILE: A new report finds that white Californians join protests at greater rates than African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos in the state.
Andrew Nixon/Capital Public Radio

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A new report released Thursday finds that California still has a long way to go to improve political participation among its residents, particularly those who are Asian Americans, African Americans and Latinos. 

The report from the civil rights group Advancement Project and University of California, Riverside, School of Public Policy found that race plays a major factor when measuring participation in government.

As has been previously reported, voter turnout lags among communities of color. But they also fall behind in other kinds of political participation.

White Californians, for example, contact public officials at more than double the rate of Asian Americans and Latinos. Sixteen percent of whites in one census survey cited reached out to public officials compared to 6 and 5 percent for Asians and Latinos, respectively. Nine percent of the  black Californians surveyed contacted public officials. 

“We cannot achieve a healthy democracy for all when the voices of communities of color are shut out of our political process,” John Kim, executive director of the Advancement Project, said in a press release.

The report also found whites support campaigns and attend political meetings in higher numbers, regardless of their economic status. 

Other findings from the report:

  • Latinos and Asian Americans in California face the greatest inequalities in voting. For example, in the 2012 presidential election, among adult citizens, only 48 percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and only 49 percent of Latinos voted. By contrast, 64 percent of whites and 62 percent of blacks voted. The report finds that lower rates of citizenship exacerbate these disparities for Latinos and Asian Americans.
  • Racial disparities worsen for all communities of color in midterm and local elections. Asian Americans were half as likely as whites to say that they “always voted” in local elections. Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Latinos and blacks similarly reported disproportionately low rates of voting in local elections when compared to whites.
  • California leads the nation when it comes to voting by mail, but Latinos and blacks voted by mail at a much lower rate. Asian Americans vote by mail at higher rates, but vote at lower rates overall.
  • Latino gaps in voting are most pronounced in inland areas of California, including the counties of Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern and Fresno. For Asian Americans, gaps in voting are greatest in the Bay Area counties of San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Clara and San Francisco.

The report calls for increased civic education in communities of color and better public policies to help boost participation.